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Full text of "Holocaust wall hangings"

BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY 



3 9999 06384 035 7 



Judith Weinshall Liberman 



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IOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 

This is work which embodies paradoxes that are central to 
the Holocaust. Soft, warm fabric is the medium used to 
recall the hardest, coldest extended moment in Jewish - 
perhaps in human - experience. The kind of materials that 
are used to shape the doorways - parokhet, mantle, binding 
- into the Torah; the spaces at home on which we walk and 
sit and lie, awake and asleep; garments that embrace our 
very bodies - these have become the medium for a 
message about dehumanization. 

The message speaks of the vast human capacity for horror 
and destruction. Maps with endless-seeming figures, cattle 
cars, names, numbers beyond number - and the repeating, 
unbearably gentle visage of Anne Frank - suggest the 
concrete abstraction of Nazi "accomplishment." Against 
the persistent purgatorial red and black that dominate 
Liberman's color scheme, Anne Frank's face and words 
breathe an immortal humanity which has survived because 
it must - in part through such work. 

Ori Z. Soltes, Professorial Lecturer 
Departments of Theology and Fine Arts 
Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. 



As a woman, a Jew, and an artist, Judith Liberman 
expresses the horror, the human tragedy of the Holocaust. 
Her fabric wall hangings map out a visual territory of 
unforgettable facts and events in world history. With the 
patience of a seamstress who embarked on a spiritual 
journey, Judith Liberman has revisited the smoldering hell 
fields of Nazi atrocities. Each fragment of fabric becomes 
the artifact, each stitch of thread seals the ghostly tales 
together. The wall hangings are monumental because the 
horror is of such gigantic scale. The usually intimate act of 
sewing must here serve the memories of so many faceless 
victims. Judith Liberman's works are not born out of 
vengeance but of redemption. Her wall hangings keep alive 
the memory of the dreadful Holocaust so that in 
witnessing, we too, as audience, will utter, "Never Again!" 

Salvatore Scalora, Director 

The William Benton Museum of Art 

University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut 




BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARV 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2013 



http://archive.org/details/holocaustwallhanOOIibe 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 

by 
Judith Weinshall Liberman 



with essays by 

Stephen C. Feinstein 

Salvatore Scalora 

Ori Z. Soltes 
and by the artist 

Photography by David Caras 



JUDITH WEINSHALL LIBERMAN 

Liberman(5)tiac.net 



Copyright © 2002 by JUDITH WEINSHALL LIBERMAN 
All rights reserved. 

No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever 
without written permission of the publisher except for brief quotations 
embodied in critical articles or reviews. 



Printed in the United States of America 

by 
CHARLES RIVER LITHOGRAPHY 
Rockland, Massachusetts 



Distributed by 

SCHOEN BOOKS 

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Library of Congress Control Number: 2002091 156 
ISBN 0-9719027-0-4 



Contents 



Introduction 1 

Acknowledgments 3 

Essays: 

Conceptualizing the Scale of Destruction: 5 

Judith Weinshall Liberman's Wall Hangings about the Holocaust 

by Stephen C. Feinstein 

Director, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies 

University of Minnesota 

Symbols and Signs of Longing 1 1 

in the Holocaust Wall Hangings of Judith Weinshall Liberman 

by Salvatore Scalora 

Director, The William Benton Museum of Art 

University of Connecticut 

Liberman's Holocaust Wall Hangings, 17 

Art and Jewish Art 

by Ori Z. Sokes 

Professorial Lecturer, Departments of Theology and Fine Arts 

Georgetown University 

List of the Holocaust Wall Hangings 21 

List of Plates 23 

Plates 25 

Notes for Plates 59 

How I Create Them 79 

by Judith Weinshall Liberman 



Introduction 



In 1988, 1 began creating the Holocaust Wall Hangings. 
By then I had already completed a series of more than 
two dozen paintings about the Holocaust. The 
paintings had been done in acrylics and incorporated 
brush painting, block printing and stenciling. I felt that 
the medium I had used — paint on stretched canvas — 
could not fully convey my feelings about the Holocaust. 

By using fabric as a background — and the Holocaust 
Wall Hangings are works on fabric — I could extend the size 
of the works and harness a wide variety of means to express 
myself. I could paint on the fabric and do block printing 
and stenciling, as I had done in the paintings; but I was able 
to introduce sewing, applique, embroidery and beading as 
well. The resulting surfaces and textures, added to those of 
the background fabric itself, broadened my means of 
expression far beyond what was possible in the paintings. 
The loose-hanging fabric promised to be significant in 
itself by evoking an image of banners of the Third Reich, 
which flew over Europe during the Holocaust. 

In the Holocaust Wall Hangings, as in most of my 
work, color is used expressively rather than descriptively. 
To convey my feelings about the Holocaust, I found it 
necessary to employ, for the most part, a limited palette of 
red, gray and black. The choice seemed inevitable — red: 



blood and fire; gray: suffering and despair; black: death. 

Like my Holocaust Paintings, the Holocaust Wall 
Hangings abound with repeated images: A body, a 
dismembered arm, a boxcar reappears in the same work. The 
repeated images are usually done by means of block printing. 
For some works, dozens of blocks are carved with similar 
(though not identical) images. The repetition of images is 
designed to underscore the relentlessness of the Holocaust. 

The Holocaust Wall Hangings fall mainly into two 
distinct groups: First, there are the Scenes of the Holocaust. 
These works refer more or less to the visible world; in the 
continuum between realistic and abstract, they are closer 
to the former than to the latter. In most of the Scenes, 
people take center stage. They are seen as either utterly 
isolated or as part of a totally depersonalized mass. In 
either situation, the individual is portrayed as stripped of 
his/her humanity by the Holocaust. 

In the second group, the Maps of the Holocaust, the 
Holocaust is depicted in more abstract terms.* Places and 
numbers, as well as other symbols of destruction, here 
take the place of the individual in telling the story. Often 
in these works, as in the Scenes, people appear, but this is 
done within the broader context of place and time. 

The Holocaust Paintings had already consisted of 



* I found information useful for creating the maps in Martin Gilbert's Atlas of the Holocaust. 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



Scenes on the one hand and Maps on the other. Although 
there were new Scenes and Maps to construct, my main 
task in creating the Holocaust Wall Hangings was, as I saw 
it, to maximize the power of my new medium in 
conveying my vision of the Holocaust. 

After spending a decade creating artwork — both 
paintings and wall hangings — about the Holocaust, I began 
exploring my personal relationship with the subject of the 
Shoah. This I did in a series of mixed media works 
(combining collage and painting), the Self-Portraits of a 
Holocaust Artist, in which I placed myself in Holocaust 
settings as an act of empathy with the victims. Some of these 
works were later translated into Holocaust Wall Hangings. I 
called the sub-series Epilogue. Also included in this sub- 
series are wall hangings raising an artist's post-Holocaust 
questions about God. The Epilogue wall hangings thus 
express in a more direct way than the Scenes and Maps my 
personal feelings and thoughts about the Holocaust. 

A question I am frequently asked by those who hear 
that my artwork focuses on the Holocaust is "Why?" If I 
shrug my shoulders in response, or answer that I am not 
sure what it is that drives me to it, persistent questions 
usually follow: Was I in the Holocaust? Were my parents? 
And how about the rest of my family? The fact is that 
neither I nor my parents nor anyone else in my immediate 
family was physically in the Holocaust. True to their 
Zionist ideal, my family — my parents, uncles, aunts, 
grandparents, even my great grandmother — came to Israel 
(then Palestine) circa 1921, long before Hitler, and stayed 
there for the rest of their lives. Naturally, I myself was 



born in Israel, and even though I was alive during the 
Holocaust, it was in Israel that I grew up and spent the war 
years, not in Europe. 

Of course I was aware — as aware as a child could be — 
of what was going on in Europe. I was ten years old when 
World War II broke out, and still remember the 
announcement over the radio of Hitler's invasion of 
Poland and the somber expression on my father's face 
when he heard the news. For the following six years, I 
increasingly heard bits of information about the plight of 
the Jews of Europe, the ghettos, the camps, the killings. 
Some of those close to me lost loved ones at the hands of 
the Nazis. The grim news was everywhere; it was in the air 
we breathed and it became part of us. 

It is reasonable to assume that but for the indelible 
impression that the war years made upon me, I would not 
be focusing my work on the Holocaust today. But there are 
probably other factors as well. One need not be a 
psychologist to realize that an artist's work has deep 
psychological roots; the choice of subject matter is rarely 
a conscious one for an artist. In the final analysis, however, 
it is not what drives me to create the Holocaust Wall 
Hangings that is important. What is important is that my 
Holocaust art, standing on its own independently of its 
creator, will speak to people's hearts. What is important is 
that tomorrow, one year from now, ten years from now, a 
hundred years from now someone somewhere 
contemplating the Holocaust Wall Hangings will be 
moved enough to look into his/her own heart and resolve 
to be human. 



Acknowledgments 



It is to the three people who were vitally important in shaping my life that I wish to express my 
indebtedness: to my husband, Prof. Robert Liberman, who died in 1986; to my father, Dr. 
Abraham Weinshall, who passed away in 1968; and to my brother, Saul Weinshall, whom I lost 
in 1948. Although each of these men contributed to my life in his own way, I firmly believe that all 
three played a crucial role in my eventual creation of the Holocaust Wall Hangings. 

The Holocaust Wall Hangings are dedicated to the memory of my husband, Robert Liberman. 
As a young Air Force lieutenant, Robert was part of the United States forces that helped liberate 
Europe from the Nazis. The memory of what he saw in 1945, especially the camps, haunted him for 
the rest of his life. But it is not only because of his connection with the war that I have dedicated my 
work to Robert's memory. It is also — and mainly — because for the thirty-three years we were together 
he supported me, encouraged me, loved me beyond what I dreamed possible. It was his loyalty and 
devotion that gave me the strength to pursue art. If I learned to fly, it was because Robert was always 
there to catch me if and when I faltered. 

My father, Dr. Abraham Weinshall, always was — and will forever remain — my standard for what 
is human. His wisdom and kindness, his honesty, his modesty, his loyalty and his dedication to the 
principles and causes he believed in have been my guiding light throughout my life. And although I 
know I can never measure up to him, the example he set inspires me to try. 

My brother, Saul Weinshall, was killed in the Israeli War of Independence at the age of twenty- 
one. The memory of Saul's warmth and friendship, his enthusiasm and curiosity, is always with me. 
Often as I work on one of my Holocaust Wall Hangings I recall how, during the dark years of World 
War II, Saul refused to go down to the air-raid shelter of our home in Haifa but insisted, rather, on 
going out on the balcony to watch enemy bombers as they flew overhead. More than once we found 
shrapnel nearby after the air attack. Yet Saul was undeterred. His courage amazed me. It was shrapnel 
that caused Saul's mortal wound on the Egyptian front in 1948. In my work, I have always striven to 
make up, in some small measure, for Saul's untimely death. 



Conceptualizing the Scale of Destruction 

Judith Weinshall Liberman's Wall Hangings about the Holocaust 

by 
Stephen C. Feinstein 



"I was there for about two years. Time there is not the same 
as it is on earth. Each moment there moves at its own 
speed. The inhabitants of this planet had no names. They 
did not dress as we dress here. They were not born there, 
nor did they give birth. They breathed by other laws of 
nature. I believe with all my heart that as in astrology, the 
stars influence our fate. So the ash-planet Auschwitz stands 
over this earth and influences it. They went away from me, 
they kept going from me, always leaving me, and in our 
parting look — our vow — I can see them stare at me." 

Holocaust Survivor Ka-Tsenik 

from "The 81 st Blow," film from Lochemai Hagetaot 

The Holocaust as a subject for representation in the 
arts has intensified during the past ten years. More 
and more, artists, writers, poets, photographers and 
filmmakers are trying to grapple with the problems of 
conceptualizing this enormous event, hoping that art might 
be able to do what the study of history cannot — 
comprehend the annihilation of six million Jews and half a 



million Roma and Sinti (Gypsies) through the domination 
by a country that had, until 1933, been associated highly 
with the development of civilization and culture. 

Unfortunately, the results have been mixed. Artistic 
representation, especially by people who were not "there," 
is complicated by many survivor-artists who state openly, 
such as Polish artist Jozef Szajna, that "those who were not 
there cannot paint about it," to Theodore Adorno, who 
had written at first that "after Auschwitz, there can be no 
lyric poetry." Adorno, however, eventually retracted this 
statement and admitted that it might be possible to have 
artistic representation of the Holocaust, just as a man 
being tortured has the right to scream. 

Whatever one might think about philosophical 
debates on the subject, such issues are important for 
several reasons. First, there is the question of the 
authenticity of image. Certainly, painters who have tried 
to imagine the passion of Christ at Calvary have had to 
deal with this problem. How horrible was that event? And 
if it was too horrible, might representation of it drive the 



6 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



believers out of the church? Can those who were not in 
Auschwitz understand it and represent it? If art about this 
subject cannot be a reproduction true to actual images of 
persecution and death, will a metaphor suffice? 

Secondly, the Holocaust was a public event, witnessed 
from its inception by bystanders, individuals and countries. 
It was covered in newspapers and was extensively 
photographed, not only from the ground, but also from the 
air. For many, the power of photography is so strong that 
painting and other representations seem pale. 

Thirdly, despite all caveats, visual representation in 
the form of painting, sculpture, and in the case of Judith 
Liberman wall hangings, can provide a series of multiple 
ideas which serve as points of departure for understanding 
one or many aspects of the event better. To be sure, artists 
indulging in such work have to always be wary of 
misrepresentation. A painting need not be a narrative, but 
whatever its form, it must be true to the facts of the subject 
matter. Unlike other subjects of historical study, 
Holocaust denial exists and is a big business. Artists who 
stretch metaphors so wide as to make them formless do a 
disservice to the study of the Shoah. So, the line of 
acceptability has narrowing parameters. 

Judith Liberman's Holocaust Wall Hangings, of which I 
first became aware from their installation at Yad Vashem in 
1992, and then viewed them in the flesh at Liberman's 
exhibition at the DeCordova Museum in 1994, fall into a 
unique category. Obviously, they are constructed from 
narratives and memory of the event itself. Most uniquely, 
what strikes the viewer from the first, is the medium of fabric 
and sewn material, plus the monumental scale of each work. 

Liberman has suggested that her use of fabric was to 
establish a dialectic between our usual associations with 
fabric — "the home, with permanence, with stability" — 
and the opposite reality of the German destruction of the 



Jews. But if collage is a specific artistic form of the 
twentieth century, the viewer in the case of Liberman's art 
is impelled to consider her artistic achievements as fabric 
collages, sometimes very structured with strong 
narratives. Others, however, are more abstract, which 
seem to ask the viewer to consider how the subject 
intrudes on various aspects of his or her own memory. One 
might also inquire if fabric and sewing are a particularly 
women's craft? Perhaps recently it has become so. 
However, there is a long history of tapestries from the 
Middle Ages that have become artistic treasures, not only 
because of their high quality as cloth-based items, but also 
because of their biblical narratives. Walking through 
museums even today, the viewer is often overwhelmed by 
the size of such tapestries. Liberman's wall hangings are 
not tapestries, but works done with applique of cloth upon 
cloth, often with linoleum block printing to create 
figurative images on the surface. 

An obvious uniqueness of Liberman's work is her 
approach to the Holocaust using maps. The maps provide 
the viewer with a sense of where the drama of the Shoah 
unfolded, how it changed from event to event, and is 
mixed with documentation which allows the Holocaust 
Wall Hangings to function not only as aesthetically 
interesting works but also as monumental educational 
tools. The approach to the Holocaust via maps presents a 
stark realization of the extent of Nazi destruction and how 
the Shoah is unlike forms of contemporary genocide. 
While Bosnia, for example, witnessed genocidal 
destruction and mass rape of women, it took place, despite 
all of its horror, in a very small part of Europe. The 
Holocaust, by comparison, witnessed hunts for Jews from 
the Atlantic ocean to the Volga River, from the North Sea 
to the Mediterranean. Liberman's Europe 1945 affirms 
the scale of destruction as it visually transmits the reality 



FEINSTEIN: CONCEPTUALIZING THE SCALE OF DESTRUCTION 



that Europe had became a cemetery for Jews. This wall 
hanging is another map with heaps of bodies everywhere. 
Lest the viewer not have a frame of reference, most of the 
works are surrounded with some text providing both a 
title and understanding of the event, much in the style of 
eighteenth and nineteenth century Broadsides. 

In addition, the Holocaust Wall Hangings also 
provide what may be called an aerial perspective on the 
Europe of the death camps, on the Amsterdam of Anne 
Frank, and on the geometry of the death camps 
themselves. One might speculate that utilization of this 
perspective as an artistic device is an inadvertent homage 
to Liberman's husband, Robert Liberman, who flew with 
the American Army Air Corps. This perspective is not 
new, but it is new in art about this subject. During the war, 
the Luftwaffe made aerial photographs of all the killing 
centers, death camps and concentration camps in their 
various stages of development. During varying periods of 
World War II, more specifically after the spring of 1944, 
the British and Americans took aerial reconnaissance 
photos over Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, Bergen 
Belsen and other camps. These original photographs are 
found in the National Archives in Washington. Another 
American artist, Arie Galles from New Jersey, embarked 
in the last few years on a project based upon aerial 
perspectives of the death camps, executed in charcoal and 
accompanied with poems by Jerome Rothenberg. So, 
while Liberman's wall hangings are cartographic, the 
viewer is not above the emotion of the events, which the 
artist spells out in their enormity with sewn-on and 
printed statistics, rail cars, concentration camp blocks, 
and the like. What Liberman adds, moreover, is a vision of 
blood on the soil through her artistic use of red beads 
sewn into the body of her work. 

The color field used in most of Liberman's work is 



dominated by the Nazi colors — red, black and white. The 
use of these colors, also used by Russian Constructivists, is 
a reminder of how the Nazi leadership not only 
manipulated words to deter victims from knowing of their 
true fate, but also manipulated color to produce power. 
Liberman, on the other hand, uses the same colors as an 
act of subversion, to expose within those color elements a 
history of destruction. 

Liberman also utilizes some subtle means to tell the 
Holocaust story. Kristallnacht shows a map of Germany 
with the fiery places of destruction against Jews and 
Jewish property of November 9-10, 1938, what some 
regard as a rehearsal for the final solution. But in this 
work, while Germany, and hence the question of German 
guilt, emerges strongly, the cartographic outline of the rest 
of Europe is scarcely visible, suggesting the meekness of 
response before the beginning of World War II. Wannsee 
Plans is a black and white fabric map of Europe, evoking 
the "uniforms" of camp inmates, on which are block 
printed skulls. The artist tersely repeats what was 
announced in secrecy — the future numbers of destruction 
from the infamous meeting of January 20, 1942, which 
confirmed plans set in motion as early as June 1941, for 
"the final solution of the Jewish question." 

Not all of Liberman's wall hangings deal with maps. 
Her Plan of Auschwitz-Birkenau is reminiscent of an 
architect's drawing, with significant buildings, rail spur, 
gas chambers and crematoria laid out with geometric 
exactness. Sections of the camp are numbered and 
annotated. The physical size of this piece, 97x109 inches, 
is suggestive of the massiveness of this killing center, 
which consumed more than a million lives. Road TO 
Auschwitz details the major rail links, with a multitude 
of railroad freight cars block-printed over the map of 
Europe. 



8 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



While Liberman's narratives might be called episodic, 
the nature of her choice of subject raises questions that are 
important in connecting the historical and visual. In this 
case, it is an artistic representation that provides the 
impulse for intellectual inquiry. Thus, one might ask, 
what created the basis for the spatial geometry and 
immensity of the camp of Auschwitz? From viewing Plan 
of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the viewer might reflect on the 
importance of railroad technology and that Germany 
might have won the war had it not had such an obsession 
with using the means of transportation to move Jews to 
points of destruction rather than send provisions to the 
front line fighting forces. 

Part of Liberman's work focuses on the life of Anne 
Frank. She is Hitler's most famous victim, a known 
symbol, which places more of a creative burden on an 
artist who wishes to use her as a model. Each of 
Liberman's works suggests a specific emotion. Anne 
Frank's Hiding Place, for example, suggests through 
image and text, the claustrophobia of hiding. Anne 
Frank's Amsterdam is a spider web-like map of the 
canalled city superimposed on multiple small photos of 
Anne Frank. This is suggestive of how the history of 
Amsterdam has been altered because of Miep Gies's 
accidental discovery of the Diary after the Frank family 
was deported. Anne Frank is now associated with the city 
where she had so many hopes and was betrayed. Is the 
artist asking, in this work, about how many more Anne 
Franks there were in hiding? And she is certainly 
providing homage to the million and a half Jewish 
children who perished. 

For those who prefer to diminish the Jewish aspects of 
Anne Frank's character, and believe, as she wrote before 
deportation, that things would turn out all right, 
Liberman's Anne Frank's Journey suggests the tragic 



ending of the story that most people know little about 
from reading only the Diary. Anne and her sister Margot 
were deported to Westerbork, in Eastern Holland, then to 
Auschwitz and finally to Bergen Belsen, where she 
perished under terrible conditions. Liberman's rendition 
of this on fabric suggests the immensity of the journey and 
its duration through repetition of images. As Anne Frank 
reaches Bergen Belsen, her image begins to fade. Indeed, 
how can we imagine the young girl who wrote her 
eloquent Diary succumbing in a place of typhus, mass 
starvation, tens of thousands of unburied bodies, and even 
cannibalism? Even the simple monument at Bergen 
Belsen suggests the problem as it proclaims: "Earth, 
Reveal Not the Blood Shed on Thee!" 

One of Liberman's concluding panels, Six Million, 
creates a European map from images of arms with numbers. 
However, the artist has not used tattoo numbers of actual 
victims, as some others have done, but has placed them in a 
way so as to signify the Jewish deaths in each country. The 
result is a landscape cluttered with arms, except for 
Switzerland. Six Million, completed in 1988, might be 
different if done today, given changes in attitudes about 
Swiss neutrality and negotiations about Jewish assets and 
their return. Recently, a Swiss historian, commenting on 
Swiss complicity through its banking practices, concluded 
that "Auschwitz was also in Switzerland." 

Not all of the Wall Hangings are based on maps of 
destruction. Some are simple vignettes, such as Boxcar, 
which appears as a naively constructed boxcar with a 
photo of Anne Frank sewn onto the door. In an interesting 
way, the artist in this case reflects on the simple adaptation 
of technology for a deadly purpose, and at the same time 
gives us a feel for the loneliness and terror that 
accompanied deportation. Fenced In provides a vision of 
inmates in a concentration camp. As they all look alike, in 



FEINSTEIN: CONCEPTUALIZING THE SCALE OF DESTRUCTION 



9 



a deathly state, one is reminded of what philosopher Emil 
Fackenheim has said about the distinctiveness of the Nazi 
camps — the appearance of the musselman, the walking 
dead. Fackenheim asks a question which may underlie 
some of Liberman's thought on the Holocaust — where 
would Jesus of Nazareth have been in 1942 and could he 
and his family, Jews by conventional and Nazi definition, 
have become musselmanders} That question has a 
speculative answer, as Jesus did not live in the twentieth 
century. However, events similar to the Holocaust have 
occurred in Bosnia, Rwanda, and other locations, and 
Fenced In might now easily be interpreted in a different 
way if exhibited in Sarajevo. 

But the uniqueness of the Holocaust compared to 
other events is repeated over and over again in Liberman's 
wall hangings. Two Thousand Years is a work that 
identifies Jewish Diaspora communities in Europe that 
were obliterated by the Germans. The dominant symbol is 
a red "Lion of Judah" used in the border of the wall 
hanging and printed inverted in white where 
communities vanished. This piece might have some 
resonance to Native Americans/First Peoples whose 
civilization of several thousand years disappeared in the 
Western Hemisphere after the arrival of Columbus. 
Indeed, the number of Native Americans who died by 
disease and sword is estimated to be around ninety million 
people. So what makes the Holocaust different and so 
worthy of this artist's attention? The answer is found in 
the narrative of the Holocaust Wall Hangings — the 
systematic and technologically-based killing that 
embraced the thought and actions of politicians, military 
and police groups, bureaucrats, and the corporations that 
built and helped operate the technology. The event took 
place against a group which had been emancipated and 
viewed as equal for more than a hundred years. Thus, 



some reflection on Liberman's work raises the question 
that perhaps cannot be answered: "Why did it happen?" 
And the second, more important question, is: "Can it 
happen again?" 

Liberman also pays attention to other groups 
victimized by the Nazi regime. The Fate of the Gypsies 
is a testament to the Roma and Sinti peoples, a group 
perceived to be further on the margins of European 
society before the war, whose fate vis-a-vis the law was not 
altered much after the defeat of Germany. It is now 
believed that more than half a million members of the 
Roma and Sinti communities were killed on a racial basis. 
New evidence about this destruction has materialized 
even in the mid-1990s, especially at archeological 
excavations at the Concentration Camp Lety in the Czech 
Republic. This figure of 500,000 Gypsy victims may rise 
after more research is completed. 

Lest hopelessness be left holding the upper hand, 
Liberman also provides, in Revolt, visual testaments to 
Jewish rebellions within the camps and ghettos, and 
another work, Jewish Servicemen, is a recognition that 
Jews in Allied armies fought the Nazis. But there should 
not be a misconception about intent. While it was well 
known that Nazi Germany was evil, the general public was 
essentially deprived of information about the camps until 
they were liberated from the end of 1944 through the 
spring of 1945. It is out of the memory of loss that 
Liberman hopes contemporary humanity can establish an 
initiative to react to ongoing forms of genocide. 

Many people who encounter the Holocaust and 
understand the enormous loss to humanity and the Jewish 
people respond with the cliche, "Never Again." As we begin 
a new century, it is useful to reflect that "Never Again" does 
not mean too much, except for the Jewish people, who, 
through the State of Israel, now have a defensive system 



10 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



which did not exist in 1933 or during the years of the 
Holocaust. But "Never Again" didn't have much 
significance to the people of Bosnia, Rwanda, East Timor, 
and other places where genocide has become a more 
recurrent device for solving territorial and racial questions. 
If the viewer's response to Liberman's Holocaust Wall 
Hangings is merely sorrow, then the artist may not have 
fulfilled her task. However, if the viewer understands that 



man's inhumanity to man persists, with anti-Semitism 
and racism being among the longest forms of prejudice, 
one may emerge with an understanding that civilization is 
defined in part by a constant struggle against such 
demonological forces. If this is acknowledged, then 
Liberman's art may indeed have an important role in 
healing the world. 



Symbols and Signs of Longing 

in the Holocaust Wall Hangings 

of Judith Weinshall Liberman 



by 
Saivatore Scaiora 



In a large room with dimly lighted ceiling lamps, 
certain dark tapestries hang against walls, dozens of 
messengers from the Holocaust created by Israeli born 
artist Judith Liberman. This ambitious major body of 
work is divided into two spheres: the Scenes of the 
Holocaust and the Maps of the Holocaust. As a separate part 
of the whole, each banner is a chart, a transmitter of 
terrible memorabilia, seductive on the one hand because 
of its homespun material nature and horribly cryptic in its 
delivery of facts and figures on the other hand. If your 
human antenna is operating, you will not be spared this 
emotional visitation with the ghosts of the Holocaust. 
Joined together are images that portray the martyrs and 
heroes as well as the victims and their murderers, all set 
within the stage of World War II history. Judith 
Liberman, like all good, socially committed artists, has set 
a table before us. She hopes the encounter will leave an 
indelible mark. Even as a young ten year old living with 



her family in Israel during the war years, Liberman 
remembers that "the grim news was everywhere; it was in 
the air we breathed and it became part of us." 

Decades later, these works are the mature expression 
of artist Judith Liberman, who has never forgotten the 
horror of the grim news of World War II. She has labored 
for years on this singular project, which has taken on a 
dramatic importance in her life, a personal cause to speak 
out about using the vehicle of visual art. Utilizing the 
traditional materials of fabric sewing, purchasing yards of 
commercially printed background cloth, selecting 
specialty metallic surfaced textiles and threads, she has 
combined these with other nontraditional techniques 
such as block printing and photocopied vinyl transfers of 
historical images. The wall hangings mix and blend 
various fragments that the artist freely assembles into 
large-scale fabric collages. Liberman has slowly birthed 
each tapestry, one at a time. 



11 



12 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



Floating on fields of shadowy backgrounds, the 
Holocaust Wall Hangings exist in states of contrast, 
chillingly modest and domestic in material formula and 
yet grand and expansive in concept. Even the title of the 
series, the Holocaust Wall Hangings, seems to play at 
contrast. On one hand, it is a direct naming of the material 
format and yet it also alludes to a macabre tinged image of 
murders, hangings, accomplished with the use of rope. The 
colors of black, red, and gray create an ambiance of 
suffering, death and despair. Augmentations of metallic 
threads of silver enact a solemnness of purpose, of honor 
and respect, of duty and pride. Through the repeated 
patterns, colors, and shapes and designs of memory, we are 
all drawn, coaxed to explore the depths, the Netherworld 
of the Nazi hatred machine, exposed here as a grave, dark 
purgatory. The ironically named Giftgas is here as well. 

Judith Liberman is intent to keep the ashes of the 
Holocaust smoldering for all the world to see through the 
vehicle of her art. "We must not forget what has happened." She 
speaks to us. As a woman seamstress, she has cut the cloth 
and sewn the boundaries securely. As an artist, she has 
immersed herself in the darkness of the Holocaust's tragic 
legacy, Hitler's plan to end the "Jewish problem" through 
total genocide. In show-and-tell fashion, the scenes and 
maps each reveal their carefully metered share of 
Liberman's memorial series. Deftly, the artist has co-opted 
the form of Hitler's hanging banners, the empirical signage 
of the Third Reich, into her own style of social response. 

Some of the most powerful map images are those 
dedicated to Anne Frank. One of the most notable works 
reveals several dozen gray, ghost-like images of her. This 
particular wall hanging is titled Anne Frank's Amsterdam. 

But unlike what the title of this work suggests, this 
particular World War II era Amsterdam is no longer Anne 
Frank's alone. Gazing at and through the overlaid spider 
web tangle of Amsterdam's city streets, we, the present day 



viewers who are confronted with Anne Frank's depicted 
memory, are ironically both separated from the child 
martyr by this symbolic grillwork and also magnetically 
drawn into it, like bees to nectar. Here we hover for a 
certain borrowing of time. We stand transfixed, suspended 
in an act of social acknowledgment of the dead Anne Frank. 
We are facing a demonstration of the symbolization of 
good and evil, of the riddles of cause and effect that are 
layered and represented here. The aerial map of 
Amsterdam's street plan is transformed into an artistic 
metaphor for a net of imprisonment beneath which the 
gray, pallid, multiple portraits of Anne Frank lie as if 
detached and floating. 

Anne Frank's Amsterdam is certainly an 
emotionally loaded image. As audience, we are fed a 
visualization of this young Jewish child whose story is a 
touchstone in the history of the Holocaust. We may 
wonder how artist Judith Liberman conceives of this 
particular work, what her intention is. Is this work a 
"teaching device," like a large scale chart to unroll and 
hang up before a class? Or is it a commemorative banner, 
a beautifully crafted memorial marker? The answer lies, to 
a great degree, in the issue of artistic intent and context in 
contemporary art. Within the walls of a gallery or 
museum, the Holocaust Wall Hangings are expressions of 
art, the fruitful end product of a creative process that seeks 
generally to communicate with audiences. All artists seek 
engagement, introspection, and thoughtful questioning 
from their audiences. There are rarely fixed points that 
must be ingested before savoring a work of art. You come 
before it as you are, full of your own identity, cultural 
markings, and life experiences. The aesthetic experience 
may be unique to each and every viewer in fact. 

Though this image of young Anne Frank has the 
potential to reach out to everyone, it seems to me to be 
especially important that young adults and children view 



SCALORA: SYMBOLS AND SIGNS OF LONGING 



13 



this work and the others created in her memory. There is 
a lesson here that Anne Frank and the artist share with us. 
The lesson is that the child Anne Frank's only "crime" 
was to be a Jew. For that alone, she and six million other 
Jews were exterminated by Nazi Germany. We are facing a 
visualization, a symbolization of Anne Frank, a child like 
any other except that she has the dubious honor of being 
a casualty, a fallen martyr, a victim of the world's most 
diabolical crimes against humanity. Overdone? No, I don't 
think so. The history of the Holocaust is there behind 
these works. Liberman, the artist, seems to be carefully 
saying, "Never forget the child Anne Frank, because now 
you are a witness as well." 

Judith Liberman's overriding presence can be felt 
everywhere in these wall hangings; her handwork is crude 
at times and elegant at other times. In the face of such 
emotive subject matter, it seems irrelevant to examine the 
interplay between artistic expression and craft 
construction. Where we get to is ultimately more absorbing 
than how we get there. Her choices in materials, design and 
construction are all aspects of her formal decisions that 
facilitate the process of expression making. 

Without a single doubt, the Holocaust Wall Hangings 
are artistic expressions that present interesting challenges 
to consuming audiences. One must consider that the artist 
offers these works as a Jewish woman who both speaks for 
herself and for an unspecified community of other Jews as 
well. The reception within Jewish and non-Jewish 
audiences to these works may present interesting results. 
For instance, even within the Jewish community, those 
families that have lost relatives to the Holocaust may react 
differently by degree than those who did not, and 
certainly the reaction of Jews who survived the Holocaust 
is a further possible variation of intensity. Reception by 
Israeli Jews may be different from that of Jews who live in 
the U.S. The Holocaust Wall Hangings are by no means 



only addressed to Jews. The events of the Holocaust are 
universal tragedies of unparalleled human scale. 
Liberman's expressions are for the consumption of anyone 
who cares about the issue of cultural genocide. 

This body of work's teaching capacity is compatible 
with the history of politically based art. In these cases, the 
artist functions more as a community or social leader and 
teacher-advocate than a solo artist who speaks to more 
private concerns. Does this in any way diminish the more 
traditional aspect of regarding the Holocaust Wall 
Hangings as a form of "true fine art"? Not at all. There are 
countless examples in the history of art of artists who 
explored humanistic subjects even before the category of 
political art came to be. The wall hangings have artistic 
pedigree and sit squarely within the accepted boundaries 
of contemporary artistic expressions; in fact, they can 
move within various circles of focus in their exhibition 
life. Because of Judith Liberman's Holocaust Wall 
Hangings and other works like them, it is unlikely that 
the Holocaust will ever see a diminished interest in the 
area of academic study or in the arts. 

Let us briefly look at the general audience's role and 
function in the life of the Holocaust Wall Hangings. As 
willing participants, the audience members become the 
vessels, the human recipients of certain informational and 
emotional cargoes that lie rooted within the work. They 
need not be expected to support the type of work that is 
embodied in literature or historical writing. Art is a 
distillation of words and knowledge that, when properly 
orchestrated, can create engagement and dialogue, and can 
provide opportunity for transference in the audience, 
perhaps even transcendence. This process of audience 
digestion is common to all situations. While we could safely 
say that all creative works want to unload themselves on 
their audiences, to reveal their inner selves to their 
audiences, it is particularly true in the case of these socially 



14 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



haunting works. They, more so than any other form, seek 
release. We as audiences are the witnesses, the sponges of 
soulfulness that the artist hopes will carry away a blend of 
knowledge and emotional reaction. 

As audience, we should remember the image of Anne 
Frank long after we directly experience the wall hangings 
dedicated to her. Though she was only one of the millions 
of Jews to be shot, starved, and exterminated by the Nazis, 
it is nevertheless a fact that she is the one whose words survive 
in literature. Over time, Anne Frank has achieved a 
profound but unfortunate status as one of the immortals of 
the Holocaust, a primal symbolization of its horror. 

In another wall hanging, Anne Frank's Hiding 
Place, Anne writes that she "wanders from one room to 
another, downstairs and up again, feeling like a songbird 
whose wings have been clipped and who is hurling himself 
in utter darkness against the bars of his cage." Surely it is 
undeniable that Anne Frank's story of her family's self- 
imposed captivity to escape Nazi detection is one of the 
most poignant pieces of literature to have survived the 
Holocaust. Here Liberman treats the image and text so 
directly, duplicated and encased in a wire-like grid. If we 
look closely, there is an undeniable resemblance between 
the artist and our Anne Frank. Liberman has a flair for 
dramatic moments and uses text and image advantageously 
in order to increase the emotional ties that the audience 
may feel in this work. Ultimately, we must not overlook one 
very critical fact: The Holocaust Wall Hangings are a 
creative and personal link to the suffering of the Jews of the 
Holocaust for their creator, Judith Liberman, who lived out 
the war as a child safely in Israel. Her connectedness is not 
by way of her immunity to its physical horror, but by her 
cultural and psychological experience of it. 

In connecting to Liberman's Anne Frank, we find 
ourselves involved in more than just the gaze of Anne 
Frank. Her image and words evoke a deep soulful sense of 



longing in me. What is it? The dictionary says that longing 
is a yearning or a great desire. But it fails to mention the 
longing of the heart, that blood organ that lies at the center 
of our body which is also the embodiment of our core of 
emotions and feelings. Does longing of the heart cause pain 
and produce tears? Should we ask a medical doctor who 
deals with the physical realm to answer a question of a 
spiritual nature? No. It is better to turn to our own 
experience to seek out this sense of longing. We humans 
mourn our dead in ways that transcend both realms. Our 
very cells are repositories of memory, especially sadness or 
trauma. How do we long for our dead mothers? Our 
fathers? A brother or sister? Our spouses? Our friends? In 
acts and experiences of longing, we belong to ourselves, our 
family and friends. We are lodged in this world, set within 
our own lives. Belonging and longing are both about love 
and connection to something very deeply rooted. 

My own experience tells me that longing is most often 
manifested as a sense of incompleteness, of inexplicable 
loss; in extreme situations, it is a psychic ransacking, 
which may never yield recovery. The living long for the 
dead, as we also often long for childhood, even for our 
country and our culture of origin. We mark the passage of 
our own lives with the stones of our losses. 

As an artist, Judith Liberman presents us with fabric 
wall hangings that are simple to visually read in some 
cases and very complex and strange in others. The 
Holocaust Wall Hangings are related to all art that seeks a 
social dialogue, works as diverse as Pablo Picasso's 
Guernica painting, any of Sue Coe's illustrated books, or 
Alfredo Jaar's illuminating installations. The categories of 
subjects are particular to Liberman's own redemptive 
stylizations. She uses design, abstraction, figuration, text, 
historical documentary data, word labels, whatever works 
best. The entire series is completely unique. There is no 
other exactly like it in the world. I believe these works 



SCALORA: SYMBOLS AND SIGNS OF LONGING 



15 



come from a special place in Judith Liberman's artistic 
career. It is, in my estimation, her principal legacy as a 
mature artist. They are masterworks, unmatchable poetic 
gifts of expression and feelings. 

There are no easy routes to healing. The German 
nation, since the end of World War II, has struggled with 
its own demons in regard to the Holocaust. Today, the 
quest continues for a cleansing process, an understanding 
of historical events. Jews and Germans are tied together in 
this case. Both seek the same, but wounds are slow to heal. 
The process of healing is painful and lasts far longer than 
the actual trauma that caused the original wound. How 
will Germans look at the wall hangings? We can only 
triumph over our fears and pain when we can face them. 
There is nothing easy about it, not then and not now. 

Liberman's maps are alluring from a distance and 
disarming upon a closer viewing. Because of their mostly 
encoded data, their terrible news is held in check, is 
charted away. One thing is certain in surveying the entire 
series of wall hangings: Liberman plays at many 
interesting strategies and uses of materials to work her 
messages. Sometimes with the eye of beauty, and 
sometimes with the eye of the beast, Liberman sews her 
surfaces with enticing visual lures. We face a certain 
horrible, dark beauty in all of Judith Liberman's wall 
hangings. Sumptuous of surface, rich in original fabric 
material, and flawlessly executed with layers of printed 
and appliqued cloth pieces, the hanging fabric banners 
beckon to us and then deliver a certain inner sting, a dose 
of bitter medicine. 

In some cases, the images portray the massive Nazi 
death devices. In some works, the systematic 
identification of Jews is the subject, highlighting the Nazi 
obsession with marking human prisoners and collecting 
"data." In some cases, we find that the maps reveal 
staggering levels of enemy aggression and victim retreat 



and escape routes. The viewing is a mixed menu. 
Sometimes the audience is facing an abstracted map and 
other times the audience faces fields of dismembered arms 
and hands. The Jewish heroes and fighters are represented 
as well and sometimes the stark black and white patterns 
of concentration camp prisoners bring the viewer's eyes to 
the rawness of suffering and despair. 

One very disturbing banner is the one with hundreds 
of commercially printed, vinyl, historic photographs, 
appliqued onto the surface, bringing a ghostly, 
documentary reality to bear. Another one presents the 
crematoria, medieval and diabolical, pitiless in their 
functionality. It would be impossible to even suggest that 
there is no emotional price to pay here, both for the maker 
and the viewer. Surely in the making of the wall hangings, 
Judith Liberman faced the demons of history and 
transcribed them into a personal visual interpretation that 
she could live with. For instance, theatrical or not, the 
black iron doors of the red flaming incinerator chambers 
are the devil's devices and picturing them is no easy task, 
not even decades after the end of World War II. The 
representation of these death chambers is solemn: They 
represent both the attempted and the achieved 
annihilation of millions of Jews. 

Judith Liberman has balanced many concerns in 
creating her series: her personal feelings regarding the 
Holocaust, her artistic studio-based explorations that 
helped her give voice to those feelings, and ultimately her 
concerns in attempting to reach out to and communicate 
with a wide audience. Throughout, Liberman handles it 
all with a very strong sense of herself as both the creator 
and also an individual Jew, a witness and a voice against 
the Holocaust's legacy of torture and death. 

Liberman envisions the lines that permeate her 
banners, always the white lines, to represent the long thin 
lines of humanity, waiting. The lines are repeated in the 



16 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



prisoners' suits and the horizontal boards of the barracks 
and the rails of the trains. Grayish, darkly printed railroad 
boxcars cross the midnight velvet fields of the wall 
hangings. German style lettering places the Holocaust in 
the belly of the European continent. Checkered 
backgrounds grid and cage the sewn-over visual data as 
well as present a detached graph-like view that freezes 
levels of the inhumanity presented. The silhouette of 
Germany is a Black Forest timber wolf. Believe it. Believe 
the fear. The Lilliputian soldiers of the Einsatzgruppen 
are the stuff of nightmares. The blood soaked, 
dismembered body dumps add weight to the mountain of 
loss and disfigurement of the global Jewish Diaspora. 
Skeletal bony hands reach out through girded wire fences. 
The appendages of the faceless Jews reach out to us. Do we 
dare touch them? Do we carry a heavy heart for them? 



Would we dare substitute ourselves within their place? 
Who would treat human beings like this? Do such terrible 
things to them? 

Ultimately, the road to redemption is lined with 
unpleasant truths. Artist Judith Liberman has dared to 
face her deeply rooted connection to the horrors of the 
Holocaust. She has processed these most difficult of 
events through the creative studio approach, and while the 
ghosts of the Jewish Holocaust will never leave Judith 
Liberman, I believe she has found some sense of peace for 
herself. Along with her acts of creation and process came 
moments of remembering and longing. Through her 
efforts, she has given us all a vital series of works which 
will continue to pay tribute to the memory of Jews dozens 
of decades beyond the new millennium. The Holocaust 
will never be forgotten. 



Liberman's Holocaust Wall Hangings, 

Art and Jewish Art 



by 



Ori Z. Soltes 



ONE 

The human condition is fraught with paradox. If the 
God who we assume made us, with a purpose, is by 
definition unfathomable — His very name ineffable 
(beyond offering to us the fact that God is, for the Hebrew 
letters of the unpronounceable name mean "isness") — 
then is it any surprise that we, God's creatures, are laden 
with unfathomable contradictions? We can create the 
most majestic echoes of God's creation: music, poetry, 
dance, painting, sculpture. Yet we, alone of all species, 
turn that creative inclination not merely to destructive 
ends, but apply it to entertaining ourselves with the most 
intense and extraordinary forms of hurting each other. 

By further paradox, as words separate humanity from 
other species, extending us beyond where others reach, 
words are marvelously limiting. They obscure as well as 



clarify; they tie down as well as liberate. Visual art offers 
one among several other media which humans have 
uniquely at our disposal in our attempt to understand the 
universe and ourselves, when words fail. 

In the Jewish tradition, it has often been thought that 
visual self-expression would contradict the purposes of 
God — that the Second Commandment proscribes image- 
making. It doesn't, of course — it only proscribes the making 
of images for the purposes of worship; it prohibits 
mistaking them for gods — and across Jewish history and 
geography there have been as many times and places rich 
with visual self-expression as there have been those where 
it has been inhibited. Indeed, were not the experience of 
Jews so often one of expulsion and destruction, no doubt 
more would have been made and surely more would have 



17 



18 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



survived as evidence of what was visually expressed by Jews. 

Certainly as the twentieth century began to unfold, in 
cultural capitals like Paris and Berlin and London — even 
in Prague, Vienna, Budapest and St. Petersburg — Jews 
began to explode as a contributing part of the visual life 
that would become the modernist painting, sculpture, and 
architecture of our era. Names like Pissarro, Israels, 
Liebermann, Ury, Romberg, Antokolski, Levitan, to say 
nothing of Chagall, Modigliani, Soutine, and Lipschitz 
are among those associated with the varied directions 
taken by painting and sculpture even before World War I 
had covered the European landscape with darkness. 

No moment in human experience reveals the dark side 
of humanity more profoundly than does the Holocaust that 
followed a generation later. And no experience has 
provoked a more elaborate and continuous outpouring of 
attempts to grasp its unfathomability than the Holocaust 
has. No group was more aware of the twistability of words 
to say the opposite of what they mean than were the Nazis, 
who were masters of manipulating words. And since that 
horrendous era, billions and billions of words have 
explored what cannot be effectively explained. 

So, too, and ironically enough, even as the Holocaust 
destroyed so much of the modernist world for Jews and 
non-Jews alike, it neither managed to exterminate Jews 
and Judaism nor did it eliminate the burgeoning of a 
variety of forms of Jewish visual self-expression. Indeed, 
as the world of seeing shifted its center toward New York 
by the end of the 1940s, a multitude of Jews played roles 
in shaping the art of the second half of our century — and 
continue to do so. 

And nearly every Jewish artist active since the 
Catastrophe has felt the need, sooner or later to respond to 
its traumatic detritus. And so what we speak of as 
"Holocaust Art" — by which I mean any form of visual 



response to the Holocaust, created during or after it, by 
anybody, Jew or non-Jew — is, by paradox and irony, one of 
the most fruitful forms of art, particularly by Jews, in the 
past fifty years. The darkness that Hitler spread over the 
world has yielded, among other forms of unexpected light, 
a wealth of troubled and troubling visual efforts at 
grasping the unfathomable. 

In the last two decades in particular, with ever- 
increasing speed, the range of forms of visual self- 
expression with regard to the Holocaust has extended 
towards infinity. Survivors and the children of survivors, 
Jews and also non-Jews — sometimes, especially, 
Germans — have wrestled with a limitless range of trying 
to respond in non-verbal, visual terms to the unique effort 
of the Nazis to torture and destroy. 



TWO 

Judith Weinshall Liberman's work falls gently and 
emphatically into this complex matrix of issues. She is part 
of the sweeping wave of Jews that has overwhelmed the 
shores of western art in this century for whom, as Jews, an 
implicit pair of questions has been: How do I as a Jewish 
artist fit into the history of western art — which for the past 
sixteen centuries has been largely Christian art? And what 
should be the sources of visual inspiration from which I 
draw, coming from a tradition that has a reputation for 
being non- visual and certainly non-representational? 

She is also one of the many to feel the unavoidable 
need to address the most horrendous period in Jewish — 
perhaps in human — history in her own unique visual 
terms. She is one of the fortunate, whose immediate 
family left Europe long before Hitler devoured it — but 
one of those who could not be untouched by that act of 



SOLTES: LIBERMAN'S HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS, ART AND JEWISH ART 



19 



cannibalism, whether as a child hearing the constant news 
of its spreading circle of terror, or as an adult 
contemplating the far-flung crags and boulders of its 
moraine. The ripples of unfathomability impelled her to 
consider new means of visualization to help grasp the 
horror. We see this in the alternation of concrete, 
figurative representation — the faces of people and the 
shapes of boxcars — and what amounts to abstraction. For 
in their infinitizing quality, in their being too much and 
too many for the mind to really grasp, the maps and place- 
names and numbers acquire a distinctly abstract quality. 

And if one of the questions of Jewish and general 
twentieth-century art is that of where to draw the line 
between figurative and abstract, Liberman has responded 
by hovering on that line. Abstraction persists in the 
diagonal lines of toy-soldier-figures over the amorphous 
fragments of what is a map or repeated lion images 
imprinted over the dotted lines of the abstract European 
geo-political landscape or repeating miniature boxcar 
images or simply a matrix of horizontal and vertical 
lines — superimposed over or interspersed with that very 
familiar figurative image: the face of Anne Frank. 

The child in Liberman, recalling the child she was 
when she heard the first radio reports of Nazi progress, is 
drawn to that precocious child whose diary makes us weep 
with its splendid voice and the realization both that the 
voice was silenced so early and that over a million 
children like Anne Frank were silenced before they could 
speak. The traumatist in Liberman sees endless children, 
endless Anne Franks, endless boxcars, endless arms 
tattooed with numbers — endless lions as Lions of Judah 
whose roars have been silenced. 

We also see her response as one of intentional paradox 
in the combination of materials that comprise her 
Holocaust Wall Hangings. The artist paints and prints and 



calligraphizes and stencils on sewn, appliqued, 
embroidered and beaded textiles, not on the traditional and 
expected wood or canvas or paper. Soft, warm fabric is the 
medium used to recall the hardest, coldest extended 
moment in twentieth-century experience. Textiles are 
traditionally the kind of material used to shape the 
doorways into the Torah, center of Jewish ritual life 
throughout history: mantle, binding, parokhet (ark curtain). 
Such works have, over the centuries and across the Jewish 
world, tied the individual and the family to the community, 
as the numerous dedicatory inscriptions on them often 
attest. In a more generalized sense, fabric ordinarily shapes 
the comfort level of the spaces at home on which we walk 
and in which we sit and lie, awake and asleep, and defines 
the garments that embrace our very bodies. In Liberman's 
deft hands, the caressing textile medium of continuity has 
become the medium for a message about dehumanization 
and the attempt to destroy continuity. 

Thus the artist creates work which embodies 
paradoxes that are central to the Holocaust as well as tied 
to questions in the history of Jewish art and its 
proliferation in the twentieth century. What and how 
should it be? How should it be understood? The 
Holocaust Wall Hangings obliquely address the notion 
that we can never fully encapsulate Jewish art by simple 
references to style, subject, or symbol; nor to material, 
artist identity or purpose — as they speak simultaneously 
of both the vast human capacity for horror and 
destruction, and the possibility for human salvation. 

She chooses, again and again, the colors of Purgatory 
as they are understood in the symbolism of Italian 
Renaissance (Christian) art: red and black. Blood and 
death in her re-vision lead not only to despair, but out of 
the Inferno toward some sort of redemption — or at least of 
hope, that "tomorrow, one year from now, ten years from 



20 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



now, a hundred years from now someone somewhere 
contemplating the work will be moved enough to look 
into his/her heart and resolve to be human." 

Against the persistent purgatorial red and black, 
Anne Frank's face breathes an immortal humanity which 
has survived because it must — in part through such works 
as these. Moreover, the fact that these soft, harsh wall 
hangings are dedicated to the memory of the artist's 
father, as an ultimate symbol, in how he was, of what is 
best among humans; to the memory of her brother, who 
died lighting for Israel's independence at age twenty-one; 
and to the memory of her husband, who never forgot what 



he saw as a member of the United States liberating forces 
at Dachau; not only ties the personal to the universal. It 
reminds us of that ultimate other thread — memory — 
found within the complex word-and-image-woven 
tapestry that comprises the history of art, Jewish art, and 
human experience. And it offers us the uplifting 
realization that in the exercise of memory, which 
underlies both word and image, the ultimate paradox of 
the human condition becomes available to us. For through 
memory and works such as these, mortality may be 
transmuted into immortality of a particular and profound 
sort. Death itself may be overcome. 



List of the Holocaust Wall Hangings 

by category 



INTRODUCTORY 






Attribution 


Dedication 


Remembrance 


MAPS 






Anne Frank's Amsterdam 


The Einsatzgruppen 


Revolt 


Anne Frank's Hiding Place 


Europe 1945 


Road to Auschwitz 


Anne Frank's Hiding Place II 


Fate of the Gypsies 


Search for Safety 


Anne Frank's Journey 


Gypsies Too 


Six Million 


Auschwitz Evacuation 


Jewish Servicemen in World War II 


Two Thousand Years 


Camps 


Kristallnacht 


Voyage of the St. Louis 


Cross 


Plan of Auschwitz-Birkenau 


Wannsee Plans 


SCENES 






At the Wall 


The Final Solution 


Monuments 


Belongings 


Fire 


Monuments II 


Boarding 


Giftgas 


Race Defiler 


Boxcar 


The Hand 


Showers 


Bunks 


Hands 


Triangles 


Bunks II 


Hands Up 


Wire Fence 


Cart 


Insignia 


Yellow Star 


Fenced In 


Memorabilia 




EPILOGUE 






Count the Stars 


Images 


Sight 


Forsaken 


Power 


Supplication 


Good and Evil 


Praise 


Vanished 


Holocaust Artist 


Prayer 


Witness 


ID 


Righteous 





21 



List of Plates 



NO. 




PAGE 


NO. 




1. 


ANNE FRANK'S JOURNEY 


25 


24. 


BOXCAR 

T"» TT\T T7" O 


2. 


ANNE FRANK'S AMSTERDAM 


26 


25. 


BUNKS 


3. 


ANNE FRANK'S HIDING PLACE 


27 


26. 


WIRE FENCE 


4. 


REMEMBRANCE 


28 


27. 


INSIGNIA 


5. 


TWO THOUSAND YEARS 


29 


28. 


RACE DEFILER 


6. 


KRISTALLNACHT 


30 


29. 


TRIANGLES 


7. 


THE EINSATZGRUPPEN 


31 


30. 


YELLOW STAR 


8. 


WANNSEE PLANS 


32 


31. 


BOARDING 


9. 


CAMPS 


33 


32. 


SHOWERS 


10. 


PLAN OF AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU 


34 


33. 


GIFTGAS 


11. 


ROAD TO AUSCHWITZ 


35 


34. 


THE FINAL SOLUTION 


12. 


CROSS 


36 


35. 


FIRE 


13. 


AUSCHWITZ EVACUATION 


37 


36. 


MONUMENTS 


14. 


SIX MILLION 


38 


37. 


MEMORABILIA 


15. 


FATE OF THE GYPSIES 


39 


38. 


BELONGINGS 


16. 


EUROPE 1945 


40 


39. 


GOOD AND EVIL 


17. 


SEARCH FOR SAFETY 


41 


40. 


POWER 


18. 


VOYAGE OF THE ST. LOUIS 


42 


41. 


PRAISE 


19. 


REVOLT 


43 


42. 


VANISHED 


20. 
21. 


JEWISH SERVICEMEN IN WORLD WAR II 

HANDS UP 


44 
45 


43. 
44. 


HOLOCAUST ARTIST 
WITNESS 


22. 


FENCED IN 


46 


45. 


ID 


23. 


CART 


47 







PAGE 

47 
48 
48 
49 
49 
49 
50 
51 
51 
52 
53 
54 
54 
55 
55 
56 
57 
57 
57 
58 
58 
58 



23 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



25 



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1. ANNE FRANK'S JOURNEY Maps of the Holocaust 81" x 127" 1988 



26 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 




2. ANNE FRANK'S AMSTERDAM Maps of the Holocaust 83" X 114" 1990 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



27 







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downstairs and up again, feeling like 
a songbird whose wings have been -elided 
and mho is hurling himself in utter darkness 
against the bars of his cage. "(So outside, 
laugh, and take a breath of fresh air." 
a voice cries within me. but 9 don't 
even feel a response any more; 




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3. ANNE FRANK'S HIDING PLACE Maps of the Holocaust 67" x 106" 1989 



28 



HOLOCAUST VVALL HANGINGS 




4. REMEMBRANCE Introductory 62" x 93" 1989 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



29 






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30 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 




6. KRISTALLNACHT Maps of the Holocaust 69" x 80" 1989 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



31 



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32 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 




8. WANNSEE PLANS Maps of the Holocaust 64" x 84" 1988 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



33 




9. CAMPS Maps of the Holocaust 65" x 99" 1991 



34 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 




10. PLAN OF AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU Maps of the Holocaust 97" x 109" 1991 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



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11. ROAD TO AUSCHWITZ Maps of the Holocaust 85" x 113" 1988 



36 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 




12. CROSS Maps of the Holocaust 81" x 81" 1996 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



37 




13. AUSCHWITZ EVACUATION Maps of the Holocaust 64" x 82" 1991 



38 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 




14. SIX MILLION Maps of the Holocaust 72" x 81" 1988 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



39 




15. FATE OF THE GYPSIES Maps of the Holocaust 62" x 80" 1990 



40 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 




16. EUROPE 1945 Maps of the Holocaust 85" x 112" 1988 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



41 






THE SEARCH FOR SAFETY 1933-1945 ' . 






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17. SEARCH FOR SAFETY Maps of the Holocaust 53" x 110" 1989 



42 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



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19. REVOLT Maps of the Holocaust 52" x 64" 1989 



44 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 




20. JEWISH SERVICEMEN IN WORLD WAR II Maps of the Holocaust 57" x 110" 1991 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



45 






•■*■•■■■ «■ 




21. HANDS UP Scenes of the Holocaust 46" x 97" 1989 



46 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 




22. FENCED IN Scenes of the Holocaust 48" x 137" 1989 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



47 




23. CART Scenes of the Holocaust 47" X 56" 1989 




24. BOXCAR Scenes of the Holocaust 75" x 88" 1991 



48 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 




25. BUNKS Scenes of the Holocaust 23" x 56" 1989 




26. WIRE FENCE Scenes of the Holocaust 45" x 58" 1989 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 

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49 




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27. INSIGNIA Scenes of the Holocaust 61" x 56" 1994 



28. RACE DEFILER Saws o/r/je Holocaust 44" x 21" 1998 



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29. TRIANGLES Scenes of the Holocaust 33" x 114" 1998 



50 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 




30. YELLOW STAR Scenes of the Holocaust 51" X 51" 1994 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



51 




31. BOARDING Scenes of the Holocaust 46" x 58" 1994 



32. SHOWERS Scenes of the Holocaust 46" x 58" 1994 





Detail 



Detail 



52 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 




33. GIFTGAS Scenes of the Holocaust 42" x 48" 1994 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



53 




34. THE FINAL SOLUTION Scenes of the Holocaust 67" x 67" 1990 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 




35. FIRE Scenes of the Holocaust 38" x 47" 1990 




36. MONUMENTS Scenes of the Holocaust 55" x 172" 1990 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



55 




37. MEMORABILIA Scenes of the Holocaust 48" x 74" 1995 




38. BELONGINGS Scenes of the Holocaust 25" x 130" 1995 



56 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 







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39. GOOD AND EVIL Epilogue 45" x 50" 1998 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



57 



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42. VANISHED Epilogue 21" x 21" 1998 



41. PRAISE Epilogue 21" x 51" 1999 



58 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



S| ARTIST HOLOCAUST ARTIST HOLOCAUST ARTIST HOLOCAUST ARIIS1 ~ 



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43. HOLOCAUST ARTIST Epilogue 21" x 113" 1997 




44. WITNESS Epilogue 18" x 26" 



45. ID Epilogue 21" x 26" 1998 



Notes for Plates 



59 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



61 



BiQitiatf.iw:iLMikJtw itktiJitiK,tikaw : 'i wti ii-.n tin uri MjiMM^U 




IMQSrffiSn T 1 5JSIU3lMllS3SBSi i iBHBB 



1. ANNE FRANKS JOURNEY 

Affl/?.v o/f/re Holocaust SV x UT 



1988 



In this map, we step beyond the building and city where Anne Frank hid during the 
Holocaust and see the long journey she was forced to travel during her short life. From her 
birthplace in Frankfurt, Germany, she fled with her family to Amsterdam, Holland. After 
hiding there from the Nazis, she was caught and sent to Westerbork, a transit camp in 
Holland, and from there to Auschwitz, Poland, and finally to Bergen Belsen, the 
concentration camp in Germany where she died. She was not yet sixteen when she died. In 
this map, her image, set against a backdrop of boxcars, becomes fainter as she nears her death 
at Bergen Belsen. 

Both the images of the boxcars scattered over the background and Anne Frank's image along 
the path of her journey were block printed in silver acrylic on patches of fabric — burlap in 
the case of the boxcars, shiny synthetic for Anne Frank's likeness — which were then 
appliqued on the black background fabric. The borders of the European countries were 
embroidered with gray cotton floss. The tracks representing Anne Frank's journey are 
rendered by means of a metallic silver ribbon, appliqued and punctuated with faceted acrylic 
jewels. A metallic silver ribbon also forms the outline of train tracks along the border of the 
wall hanging, on which Anne Frank's image appears repeatedly, as if in motion. 




2. ANNE FRANK'S AMSTERDAM 

Maps of the Holocaust 83 w X 114 w 1990 

The layout of the city of Amsterdam, where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis, evokes an image 
of a spider's web. This layout is here superimposed upon repeated images of Anne Frank. The 
repeated images allude to the picture-covered wall of Anne Frank's room. 

The likeness of Anne Frank was carved in graduated sizes into linoleum blocks and printed 
on separate pieces of fabric, which were appliqued onto the background fabric. The map of 
the city is made up of appliqued silver ribbon, glistening like a spider's web. Anne Frank's 
image appears trapped in the web of the city. 



62 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



3. ANNE FRANK'S HIDING PLACE 

Maps of the Holocaust 67 w X 106 w 1989 

Superimposed upon an image of Anne Frank is a floor plan of the second and third floors of 
the annex of the building in Amsterdam where she and her family hid from the Nazis and 
where she wrote her now-famous diary. The words from the diary, reproduced from an entry 
she made on October 29, 1943, are symbolized by the strong horizontals and verticals of the 
floor plan, which form a cagelike structure within which Anne seems trapped. 

Anne's image was painted in black acrylic on a solid gray fabric, and the cagelike structure 
was created by appliqued crisscrossing black ribbon. The red floor plan was accomplished 
through a combination of appliqued red ribbon and embroidery. The words from Anne 
Frank's diary were stenciled in white acrylic on black linen. The graphlike pattern in the 
background and along the border refers back to the pattern on the cover of Anne Frank's 
actual diary. 



downstairs and n( again, reeling line 
a songbird whose wings have boon clllllied 
jUnil who is hurling himself in utter darb.no 
against the Lars of his cage. "Go outside, 
langli. ana laho « breath of fresh air." 
a toko cries within «e, but ? don't 
tucn feel a response ami wore; 
'? go ami lie on the diuan aiul sk-co. 
to nahe the timo nass more qnichlg, 
anil the stillness and the terrible fear, 
ibecanse there is no wag of hilling thorn. 



4. REMEMBRANCE 

Introductory 62 w X 93** 1989 

This wall hanging serves as both an introduction to the Holocaust Wall Hangings series and 
as a summation. It is a collage of images and words taken from many of the other wall 
hangings. The Holocaust is here rendered via a hodgepodge of visual symbols associated with 
death: corpses, dismembered heads and limbs, train tracks, boxcars and barbed wire. In this 
nightmarish scene, the individual — such as Anne Frank — is lost in a depersonalized world 
where black prevails. 

Many of the techniques employed in the Holocaust Wall Hangings are utilized here: painting, 
block printing, stenciling, sewing, applique, embroidery, and beading. Repeated horizontal 
embroidered metallic silver lines extending over the work from edge to edge symbolize 
barbed wire and serve to unify the wall hanging. The dedicatory words are spelled out all 
around the border. The Holocaust Wall Hangings are here explicitly dedicated to the memory 
of the artist's husband, Robert Liberman, who, as a member of the United States liberating 
forces, saw Dachau in 1945 and never forgot. The artist began working on the subject of the 
Holocaust following her husband's death in 1986. 




HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



63 




5. TWO THOUSAND YEARS 

Maps of the Holocaust 65 w X 81" 1988 

This map of Europe focuses on the destruction of two thousand years of Jewish life in Europe 
during World War II. The dates indicate when the Jewish communities destroyed in the 
Holocaust in various countries were established. The image of the lion is used as a symbol for 
the Jewish people. The red lion, the Lion of Judah full of life, shows that each community 
was established. The lion is gray and upside down to indicate that the community was 
destroyed. 

The repeated image of the lion in the body of the work was block printed directly on the 
background fabric, but along the edges it was printed on swatches of fabric and then 
appliqued. The borders of the European countries were embroidered in gray cotton floss. The 
red beads scattered over the surface symbolize the bloodshed. 




6. KRISTALLNACHT 

Maps of the Holocaust 



6T x 8(T 



1989 



The focus in this work is the night of November 9, 1938, when the Nazis launched a campaign 
of terror against the Jews of Greater Germany, setting fire to synagogues, destroying Jewish 
homes and businesses and killing Jews. The term Kristallnacht ("Night of Glass") refers to the 
broken glass of Jewish synagogues, homes and businesses resulting from this violence. The 
map depicts the area of Greater Germany. All the towns shown in the map were the sites of 
anti-Jewish violence. 

Broken glass is symbolized in this work by a variety of means: first, by the block-printed 
images of shattered glass on the background fabric; second, by the shiny silver fabric defining 
the area of violence; and, finally, by the hundreds of irregularly shaped crystal beads which 
cover the area like shards. 



64 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 




7. THE EINSATZGRUPPEN 

Maps of the Holocaust 86 w x 96 w 1990 

This map depicts the section of Nazi-occupied Europe where the Einsatzgruppen — a Nazi task force 
of mobile killing units — operated in 1941-1942. The four units which made up this task force, 
totaling three thousand men, followed the German army in its drive East. Their assignment was to 
round up and kill all the Jews along their routes. With systematic savagery, the Einsatzgruppen 
murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews. 

The area where the Einsatzgruppen operated is rendered in red fabric; the shape and color of 
the area are reminiscent of a puddle of blood. The Einsatzgruppen are represented by a repeated 
image of a soldier pointing a gun, block printed in black acrylic on patches of fabric and 
appliqued onto the red fabric. The names of some of the towns where the Einsatzgruppen 
operated were stenciled on. The area is strewn with block-printed bodies and shiny red beads 
symbolizing the carnage. The patterned background fabric of the wall hanging, with its white 
crosslike shapes on a black ground, connotes grave markers. 



8. WANNSEE PLANS 

Maps of the Holocaust 



64 w X 84 w 



1988 



This map of Europe shows the plans made by the Nazi officials gathered at Wannsee, a suburb 
of Berlin, in January 1942, to discuss the Final Solution to the so-called "Jewish Problem." 
The "Jewish Problem" was the very existence of Jews, regarded by the Nazis as a threat to 
Aryan racial purity. The Final Solution was to kill every single Jew in Europe. 

The stripes on the background fabric were block printed in white acrylic with row upon row 
of human skulls. A map of Europe, embroidered in gray cotton floss interspersed with clear 
rochaille beads, is delineated over the area. The number noted by the Wannsee officials as 
representing the Jews in each area of Europe was stenciled on scraps of fabric which were 
appliqued in the corresponding areas on the map. The total number of Jews marked by the 
Wannsee Conference for extermination — namely, 11,000,000 — appears repeatedly along the 
black border. 




HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



65 




9. CAMPS 

Maps of the Holocaust 65" X 9T 1991 

Of the many hundreds of internment camps set up by the Nazis, a total of nineteen of the 
major ones are represented in this wall hanging, which indicates the different functions that 
these camps served. Of the nineteen camps, four (Belzec, Chelmno, Sobibor and Treblinka) 
were strictly killing centers and two (Auschwitz and Majdanek) were combination 
labor/death camps. The function of each camp is conveyed by the symbol attached to its 
name. The skulls signify death. The train tracks which fill the background serve as a 
reminder of the systematic way the Jews were transported to the camps. 

The images attached to the names of the camps were created by means of block printing in 
acrylic on round patches of red fabric. The tracks were painted on rectangular patches of 
patterned gray fabric. The patches were appliqued on the black background fabric. In 
addition to block printing, painting, and applique, this wall hanging also incorporates 
stenciling (in the names of the camps and in the repeated title "Camps"), embroidery 
(creating the borders of the countries with red cotton floss), and beading (tiny shimmering 
red beads are strewn over the area of Europe). 




10. PLAN OF AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU 

Maps of the Holocaust 9T X 109 w 1991 

The layout of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, one of six killing centers set up by the Nazis 
following the Wannsee Conference, is portrayed in this work. Auschwitz was designed not 
only as a killing center but also as a forced labor camp. The ramp, where new arrivals were 
separated for life, which meant forced labor, and for death, is represented here, as are the huts 
where those selected for forced labor were crammed. The gas chambers are also indicated. 

This work was created by a combination of sewing, applique and stenciling. Each of the huts is 
separately represented by a rectangular patch of silver fabric. The gas chambers and crematoria 
are similarly indicated. The ramp is represented by an appliqued silver ribbon, and the outline 
of the various parts of the camp was rendered by appliqued red ribbon, symbolizing the fact that 
the electrified fences surrounding the camp were themselves instruments of death. The various 
areas of the camp are marked by numbers and described by stenciled labels at the bottom. The 
checks of the background fabric remind one of graph paper and serve to underscore the 
pedantic planning involved in the establishment and operation of Auschwitz, the largest and 
deadliest of the Nazis' death camps. 



66 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



11. ROAD TO AUSCHWITZ 

Maps of the Holocaust 85" x 113 w 1988 

This map shows the many roads that led to Auschwitz, the deadliest of all the concentration 
camps. From north, south, east and west, vast numbers of human beings were transported to 
their death at Auschwitz. The boxcars covering the background symbolize the methodical way 
in which the Nazis pursued their goal of the Final Solution. 

The repeated image of the boxcars, block printed in silver acrylic on patches of rough burlap 
and appliqued onto the background, underscores the Nazis' relentless pursuit of their 
objective. The borders of Europe were embroidered in gray cotton floss, while the roads 
leading to Auschwitz from all directions are indicated by appliqued red ribbon. Red ribbons 
also help form the image of the railroad tracks around the border. Auschwitz is marked by a 
glistening, faceted, red acrylic jewel, symbolizing blood and fire. 



12. CROSS 

Maps of the Holocaust 



81 w X 81 w 



1996 



The layout of the six Nazi death camps — Auschwitz, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor 
and Treblinka — is presented in this wall hanging in the form of a cross. The image of the 
cross begs the question: Where was God during the Holocaust? 

The camps are rendered through a combination of painting and embroidery. The names of 
the camps were stenciled in. The area of each of the camps is defined by a rectangular black 
piece of fabric appliqued onto the red background. The stark color combination of red and 
black symbolizes bloodshed and death. 



13. AUSCHWITZ EVACUATION 

Maps of the Holocaust 64" X 82" 1991 

In view of the rapid advance of Soviet forces, the Nazis undertook the evacuation of 
Auschwitz in January 1945. This map pinpoints approximately two dozen of the camps to 
which Auschwitz inmates were evacuated by train. The open wagons around the periphery 
signify the fact that many were forced to travel in open railway wagons, exposed to the fury 
of winter, and hundreds died of exposure. 

The background fabric of this wall hanging is gray, patterned with black lines whose movement 
connotes furious activity and confusion. The advancing Allied armies are represented by a line 
of appliqued red triangles, while the evacuation routes leading to camps away from Auschwitz 
are rendered by appliqued red ribbon. Auschwitz itself is punctuated by a large, faceted, red 
acrylic jewel, while tiny shimmering red glass beads are strewn over the whole area, symbolizing 
bloodshed. The open wagons were printed by means of linoleum blocks in black acrylic on gray 
fabric, then appliqued. The words were stenciled with black acrylic. 







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HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



67 







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14. SIX MILLION 

M«/« of the Holocaust 72" X 81" 1988 

The number of Jews murdered by the Nazis in each part of Europe during the Holocaust is here 
represented by a number on one of the large dismembered arms scattered over the area. The 
dismembered arms symbolize death. The number of Jews killed in each area is represented as a 
tattoo. The allusion is to the tattooed ID numbers which the Nazis marked on the arms of their 
victims. The total of six million is indicated by the arms around the border. 

The arms were block printed in varying shades of red acrylic on pieces of black fabric, which 
were appliqued onto the background. The borders of the European countries are embroidered 
in red cotton floss. The beads scattered over the work help express the carnage. They are long 
and tubular, with an irregular surface, and are reminiscent of trees that have been chopped 
down, a symbol for death. 



15. FATE OF THE GYPSIES 

Maps of the Holocaust 62 R 



X 80" 



1990 






Jews were not the only targets of the Nazi policy of ethnic cleansing. Like the Jews, the 
Gypsies were also regarded by the Nazis as belonging to an inferior race and thus endangering 
by their very existence the racial purity of the Germans. Hence the Gypsies, too, were targeted 
for annihilation. 

This map utilizes the image of the hand — used by Gypsies to foretell the future — to convey 
the number of Gypsies murdered by the Nazis in various parts of Europe. The hands were 
block printed on black velvet to evoke the exoticism associated with Gypsies. 



16. EUROPE 1945 

Maps of the Holocaust 85" X 112" 1988 

The continent of Europe is here portrayed as a graveyard at the end of World War II. The 
countries of Europe are strewn with bodies and some of the concentration camps where 
millions lost their lives are highlighted. 

Each country of Europe is rendered in a different black fabric — cotton, linen, silk, velvet etc. — 
and appliqued onto the background fabric. The borders between the countries were 
embroidered with variegated red cotton floss. Each of the concentration camps is punctuated by 
a glistening, faceted, red acrylic jewel, symbolizing blood and fire. The small red beads scattered 
over the map symbolize the carnage. The images of the bodies were done by means of linoleum 
blocks, which were carved and printed on the various pieces of black fabric. The same image of 
a body is printed again and again over the wall hanging to underscore that what happened in 
the Holocaust happened repeatedly across Europe. 



68 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



17. SEARCH FOR SAFETY 

Maps of the Holocaust 53 w X 110" 1989 

This work focuses on the attempted escape of Jews from Nazi-dominated areas of Europe in 
the period 1933-1945, i.e., from the rise of Hitler to power in Germany through the end of 
World War II. The running figures, symbolizing escape, radiate from the Nazi center. The 
horizontal black stripes marking various areas of the world show the extent to which different 
countries restricted Jewish immigration (with the more widely spaced horizontals 
representing greater freedom of access). The number of Jews admitted by the various 
countries is indicated. 

The running figures were block printed in gray acrylic on patches of black fabric, which were 
appliqued on the black background fabric. The various countries which admitted Jews are 
represented by appliqued red fabric. The borders outlining the continents were embroidered in 
variegated red cotton floss. Stenciling was used to render the words and numbers. 




18. VOYAGE OF THE ST LOUIS 

Maps of the Holocaust 53 w X 86" 



1989 



The reaction of many Jews to Nazi persecution was an attempt to escape, but as this work 
shows, there was no escape. The St. Louis was a German ship that left Germany in May 1939 
with 936 refugees aboard, 930 of whom were Jews armed with certificates to enter Cuba. 
When the ship arrived in Cuba, however, only twenty-two of the Jewish refugees were 
admitted. The United States, where the refugees sought admission after being rejected by 
Cuba, refused admission to any of the refugees, so the boat turned around and returned to 
Europe. The refugees were discharged in Belgium. Most came under Nazi rule within twelve 
months and eventually perished in the Holocaust. 

The voyage of the St. Louis from Europe to Cuba and back is represented by a repeated block 
printed image of the boat appliqued along its route. The white-on-black graph squares of the 
background symbolize the glimmer of hope in a sea of despair. 



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19. REVOLT 

Maps of the Holocaust 



52 w x 64 B 



1989 



Although weakened and terrorized, some Jews rose in revolt against their tormentors. Both 
in the ghettos and in the camps, Jews joined together to strike back at the Nazis. The ghettos 
where Jews revolted are represented in this wall hanging by the black patches, while the 
camps where this occurred are represented by the red patches. An upraised hand holding the 
Star of David indicates revolt. 

This work incorporates block printing, stenciling, sewing, applique, embroidery, and beading. 
The shimmering silver fabric on which the upraised Star of David is block printed symbolizes 
the glimmer of hope and contrasts sharply with the matte gray checkered background fabric. 
Shiny red glass beads are scattered over the area of the map, symbolizing bloodshed. 




HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



69 




20. JEWISH SERVICEMEN IN WORLD WAR II 

Maps of the Holocaust ST X 11(T 1991 

Jewish resistance to the Nazis took place not only sporadically, as in the ghettos and camps, 
but also in the armed services of the Allies. This map shows how many Jews fought against 
the Nazis by participating in the various armed forces of the Allies. The repeated image of the 
soldier represents organized Jewish resistance to the Nazis. 

The image of the soldier was block printed in black acrylic on red patches of fabric, which 
were appliqued onto the background fabric. The repeated image of the soldier makes up the 
various continents, which are outlined by red cotton floss embroidery. The striped 
background fabric connotes the uniforms worn by camp inmates and symbolizes the Nazi 
power against which the Allies fought. 



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21. HANDS UP 

Scenes of the Holocaust 



46" x 97 n 



1989 



In this scene, men, women, and children are standing facing away from the viewer with their 
arms upraised. They are facing a massive wall. Because their faces are invisible, the viewer's 
sense of the universality of their entrapment is heightened. Their stance, while indicating 
submission, also connotes supplication, and the wall they are facing, while implying "no 
escape," is reminiscent of the Wailing Wall. Perhaps at such a moment of despair, faith and 
prayer are the only way out. 

The hands were painted on black scraps of fabric, then appliqued. The figures were created 
by the appliqueing of fabrics of varying colors, patterns, and textures. The ground on which 
the group is standing is a solid black fabric, while the massive wall is rendered by means of a 
patterned fabric of irregularly shaped black horizontals and verticals on a gray ground. The 
overall tonality of the work is gray, symbolizing despair. 







22. FENCED IN 

Scenes of the Holocaust 



48" X 137" 



1989 



The prisoners standing behind the massive fence pose an enigma: Are they different from one 
another or are they all the same? Their stiff poses and striped uniforms are the same. Even 
their faces appear the same. The only thing that seems to distinguish them from one another 
is their height. In each case, the height of the prisoner is just sufficient to allow him to stare 
out at the viewer through an opening in the fence. The depiction of the prisoners underscores 
the depersonalization that resulted from the Nazis' relentless pursuit of the Final Solution. 

The massive fence is represented by a boldly patterned black and white fabric. The prisoners' 
uniforms were created by applique, with small buttons sewn on vertically along each top. The 
faces of the prisoners were created by the repeated printing on fabric scraps of a single linoleum 
block; the printed scraps of fabric were then appliqued. The uniformity of the prisoners' faces 
symbolizes the dehumanization that took place in the Holocaust. 



70 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



23. CART 

Scenes of the Holocaust 



\T x 56" 



1989 



Against the dark landscape of the Holocaust, a small child pulls a large cart upon which lies 
a corpse wrapped in white. Who is this child? And who is the dead person on the cart? Is it 
possibly the child's mother? And where are they? In the ghetto? And where are they heading? 
Most likely we will never know the answer to any of these questions because this child, like 
one and a half million other children, probably perished in the Holocaust. 

This scene was created mostly by applique. The child's hand and face were block printed on 
black scraps of fabric, which were then appliqued. At the intersection of the spokes of the 
wheel is a dull silver metal button, reminiscent of a rifle shell. The vastness of the patterned 
gray background fabric, contrasted with the smallness of the child, serves to underscore the 
helplessness of the individual in the Holocaust. 




24. BOXCAR 

Scenes of the Holocaust 



75 w x 88 w 



1991 



The boxcar depicted here symbolizes the vast network of trains which the Nazis used to 
transport people during World War II. The image is that of a massive cattle car, all boarded up 
except for one small window through which the face of a girl is barely visible. The image in 
the window seems to be that of Anne Frank, possibly on her way from Holland to Auschwitz 
or from Auschwitz to Bergen Belsen, where she perished. The boxcar and Anne Frank's image 
in it concretize the destiny of the millions whom the Nazis shipped in boxcars to their deaths. 
The contrast between the massive boxcar and the fragile image in the window conveys the 
isolation and dehumanization of the individual in the Holocaust. 

The boxcar and tracks were created by appliqued fabric. A gray moire fabric makes up the 
body of the train, its panels delineated by appliqued silver ribbon. Striped gray taffeta was 
used for the tracks. Metallic silver buttons punctuate the panel housing the window like 
screws, indicating that it is sealed. Anne Frank's image was block printed on a separate piece 
of fabric and appliqued, then covered by a layer of tulle to somewhat obscure the image in the 
window. 




HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



71 



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25. BUNKS 

Scenes of the Holocaust 23" X 56" 1989 

Depicted against a massive structure of vertical poles and horizontal bunks are human beings 
so depersonalized that they seem to have lost all semblance of individuality. Clad in their 
uniformly striped camp garb, they lie crammed together in identical poses on level upon level 
of identical bunks, and stare at us with a gaze that is uniformly uncomprehending. 

The scene was created by a combination of block printing and applique. The gray rectangular 
area against which the bunks and inmates are silhouetted was appliqued onto the black 
background fabric, and the vertical poles as well as horizontal bunks were created by appliqued 
ribbon. The prisoners were block printed in white acrylic on black pieces of fabric, which were 
appliqued. Only a single block of linoleum was carved and was repeatedly used to print the 
figures. This repetition symbolizes the dehumanization that took place in the Holocaust. 




26. WIRE FENCE 

Scenes of the Holocaust 45" X 58" 1989 

The wire fence used by the Nazis to imprison millions was often electrified. A mere touch of 
the fence would send a fatal electric charge through anyone who came in contact with it. 
While to many this represented an obstacle to freedom, others purposely touched the fence to 
escape what they considered a fate worse than death. We shall never know what kind of 
freedom the man depicted here sought, but by touching the fence, he succeeded in escaping 
a life he did not wish to continue. 

The prisoner's figure was done by the appliqueing of pieces of striped gray fabric; his head and 
hands were block printed in gray on black burlap, then appliqued. The starkness of the white- 
striped black fabric forming the foreground and fence stands in marked contrast to the muted 
appearance of the prisoner and suggests the underlying struggle between life and death. 




27. INSIGNIA 

Scenes of the Holocaust 61" X 56" 1994 

The shapes and colors of insignia designed to be worn by inmates of Nazi concentration camps is 
here presented in the form of a grid. Across the top, the columns read: Political (red); Hardcore 
Criminal (green); Emigrant (blue); Jehovah's Witness (purple); Homosexual (pink); Antisocial 
(black). On the left margin, starting from the top, the categories are: Basic Colors, Insignia for 
Repeaters, Inmates of Penal Colonies, Insignia for Jews and Special Insignia. Some of the special 
insignia are illustrated and a sample sleeve with insignia appears at the lower right. The original 
document on which this presentation is based is in the camp museum at Dachau. 

This wall hanging was created mainly by applique, the shapes of the various insignia rendered 
in appropriately colored fabric. The words were stenciled in black acrylic and the grid was 
created by painting. The background gray striped fabric evokes an image of the uniforms worn 
by camp inmates under the Nazis. 



72 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



28. RACEDEFILER 

Scenes of the Holocaust 44 w X 2V 1998 

Two of the insignia worn by Jewish inmates of Nazi concentration camps are featured in this 
work. Both insignia represented "race defilers," a term used by the Nazis to describe Jews — 
male or female — suspected of having engaged in sexual relations with "Aryans." Both insignia 
combine a yellow triangle, which indicates "Jew," with a black triangle. The two insignia are 
based on illustrations found in a row of "Special Insignia" in the table of insignia of camp 
inmates contained in an original document at the camp museum in Dachau. 

As in Triangles, this wall hanging was created mainly by applique. The words "male," 
"female," "race defiler" and "Jew" were stenciled in silver acrylic. The background for the 
insignia is a striped fabric, which evokes the image of camp uniforms. 



29. TRIANGLES 

Scenes of the Holocaust 



33 w X 114" 



1998 



The focus here is on six of the insignia worn by Jewish inmates of Nazi concentration camps. 
The insignia were composed of triangular fabric patches of various designated colors — red for 
"Political," green for "Hardcore Criminal," blue for "Emigrant," purple for "Jehovah's 
Witness," pink for "Homosexual" and black for "Antisocial" — superimposed upside down 
upon the "basic" yellow triangle indicating "Jew." The presentation is based on the row 
entitled "Insignia for Jews" in the table of insignia of concentration camp inmates as seen in 
an original document in the camp museum at Dachau. 

This wall hanging was created mainly by applique. The lettering was stenciled in silver 
acrylic. The triangles are mounted on striped fabric to suggest that the insignia were worn on 
camp inmates' uniforms. The words "Insignia" and "Jew," together with appliqued yellow 
triangles, appear in the border. 



30. YELLOW STAR 

Scenes of the Holocaust 



51 w x SV 



1994 



During the Nazi occupation of Europe, Jews were compelled to wear a badge to distinguish 
them from non-Jews. The required badge, which varied from region to region, was usually a 
yellow star on a black ground or a black star on a yellow ground, often with the reference to 
"Jew" in the local language indicated at the center of the star. This wall hanging treats the 
badge not as a badge of shame but rather as one to be worn with pride. The image here is that 
of a regal coat adorned with stars. 

The shape of the coat was rendered by appliqueing a piece of black fabric onto the red 
background. Most of the stars in this work were created by means of block printing. 
Linoleum blocks were carved with the various designs and printed in black acrylic on patches 
of variegated yellow, which were then appliqued in a lively collage. The yellow stars edging 
the front and sleeves of the coat were appliqued to suggest a garland of flowers, or lei, a 
symbol of hospitality and farewell. 






HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



73 






31. BOARDING 

Scenes of the Holocaust 



46 re x 58 w 



1994 



Images — both photographic and art — of people boarding trains vie with one another for 
attention in this collage. The repetition of the images is designed to underscore the fact that 
what happened in the Holocaust happened repeatedly. 

Both the photographic and the art images used in this work were transfer printed onto 
rectangular patches of solid gray cotton fabric, which were then appliqued onto a background 
fabric. The image of a large group of faceless people boarding a train, which appears again and 
again in this work in various sizes, is taken from the artist's painting Boarding (acrylic on 
stretched canvas, 30" x 40", 1987), which is part of her Holocaust Paintings series. The gray 
tonality of the work has a newsreel-like quality and symbolizes hopelessness. 



32. SHOWERS 

Scenes of the Holocaust 



46" X 58" 



1994 



"Showers" was the euphemism used by the Nazis to lure unsuspecting victims into the gas 
chambers. Photographic as well as art images related to the gassing and cremation of human 
beings form a patchwork of images claiming attention in this wall hanging. The repetition of 
images underscores the universality of the deceptiveness and brutality employed by the 
Nazis. 

The images, whether photographic or derived from art, were transfer printed onto rectangular 
pieces of gray cotton, then appliqued to the background fabric. The image of the line of women 
and children on their way to the "showers" above a heap of bodies derives from the artist's 
painting Showers (acrylic on stretched canvas, 30" x 40", 1987), which is part of the artist's 
Holocaust Paintings series. The gray tonality of the work, as in its companion piece Boarding, 
has a newsreel-like quality and symbolizes hopelessness. 



33. GIFTGAS 

Scenes of the Holocaust 



42" X 48" 



1994 



Giftgas is the German term for poison gas. Pictured in this wall hanging is a can of Zyklon B 
gas pellets, of the kind used by the Nazis at camps such as Auschwitz to gas millions of human 
beings. The term Giftgas is clearly visible on the can. The pellets were thrown by Nazi 
functionaries through an opening in the ceiling of the gas chamber and would turn into poison 
gas upon contact with the air, suffocating those trapped in the sealed chamber below. This 
method of mass murder was especially devised by the Nazis in pursuit of their goal of the Final 
Solution, namely, the annihilation of the Jewish people. 

The photographic image of a Zyklon B can was transfer printed on fabric and appliqued onto 
a patterned background fabric. The black and gray patterned background fabric was 
especially selected because its pattern suggests showerheads. The gas chambers were 
euphemistically called "showers" by the Nazis so as to more easily lead their unsuspecting 
victims to the slaughter. The term Giftgas was stenciled around the image of the Zyklon B can. 



74 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



34. THE FINAL SOLUTION 

Scenes of the Holocaust dT X 67 w 



1990 



The progression of anti-Jewish measures taken by the Nazis in pursuit of the Final Solution 
is represented in this wall hanging as a four-step process. From evacuation and relocation in 
the upper left quadrant of the work, the scenes move clockwise to incarceration in camps, 
individual and group murder and, finally, to mass extermination by gas and crematoria. The 
four-step process is represented by scenes arranged in four rectangular panels, two horizontal 
and two vertical, against a black background. Because of the arrangement of the gray panels, 
the black background forms a swastika. The red border of the wall hanging bears the words 
"The Final Solution" as well as images of skulls. 

The various scenes were created by means of block printing. Dozens of linoleum blocks were 
carved with different images of persecution and printed with white or black acrylic on gray 
patches of fabric, which were assembled into rectangular panels. The thick red floss used to 
assemble the patches serves to divide the different scenes from one another and provides 
emphasis to each. A stenciled hand on the black background indicates the direction of the 
progression of anti-Jewish measures. The red border connotes blood and makes explicit the 
meaning of this wall hanging. 



35. FIRE 

Scenes of the Holocaust 



38 w x 47 B 



1990 



The image of an arm protruding from a crematorium underscores the crematorium's human 
connection. The arm here, like the arms of millions in the Holocaust, bears a tattoo. The 
tattoo reads "6000000" and thus reminds us that six million Jews perished in the Holocaust. 

The crematorium, formed in black fabric appliqued onto the red background, has a fiery red 
interior rendered in shimmering red silk. Tiny red glass beads sewn near the edge of the 
crematorium's open doors seem to reflect the fiery interior. The arm was block printed on a 
separate piece of fabric, which was then appliqued. The number "6000000" was stenciled on. 
The image of the bricks was created by the use of a black-striped red fabric overpainted in 
acrylic with black vertical lines. 

36. MONUMENTS 

Scenes of the Holocaust 55** X 172" 1990 

The three crematoria facing us with their open doors invite us to probe the secrets they hold 
within. What unspeakable events took place here? These large black crematoria are gravestones 
marking the road of history, monuments which serve to remind us of humanity's dark past. 

The images of the crematoria were created by appliqued black fabric. Red stitching along the 
edge of the crematoria doors and the tiny glistening red glass beads edging the crematoria 
interiors suggest the glow of fire. The black-striped red fabric of the background represents 
the brick wall in which crematoria were housed in the camps. The red color of the 
background symbolizes blood and fire; the blackness of the crematoria symbolizes death. 





HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



75 




37. MEMORABILIA 
Scenes of the Holocaust 



48" x ir 



1995 



Images of the dentures collected by the Nazis from the mouths of their victims and intended 
for reuse make up the wall in which a crematorium is set. The crematorium itself is edged 
with images of toothbrushes. Visible in the interior of the crematorium are human skulls, 
their teeth sharply defined. 

The photographic images of dentures and toothbrushes were transfer printed on pieces of 
fabric, which were then appliqued onto the black background fabric. The skulls were transfer 
printed from copies of the artist's drawing of a skull onto patches of fabric, then appliqued. A 
semitransparent layer of a black gauzy fabric covers the interior of the crematorium, forcing 
the viewer to look closer at the cache of human skulls. The contrast between the clarity of the 
man-made objects — the dentures and toothbrushes — and the obscurity of the skulls serves as 
a reminder that man-made objects were more highly valued by the Nazis than human life and 
therefore had a better chance of surviving the Holocaust. 




38. BELONGINGS 

Scenes of the Holocaust 25" X 130" 1995 

A collage of images associated with human hair makes up this panoramic wall hanging. 
Photographic images of implements usually associated with hair — combs, brushes, razors, 
scissors — are presented together with those of human hair, whether shorn, packed in bags or 
woven into mats. The depicted implements and the hair survived the Holocaust. The featured 
photograph of the twosome — the dark haired lady and the blond girl — reinforces the 
underlying element of "hair." 

The photographic images were transfer printed on rectangular patches of fabric and then 
appliqued onto the background fabric. The images are repeated, though in a variety of sizes, to 
underscore the universality of the destructiveness wrought by the Nazis. The featured photograph 
of the lady and girl was taken in Israel (then Palestine) in 1942, i.e., during the Holocaust. The girl 
was the artist, Judith, and the lady was her nanny, Batya. Batya had escaped from Poland and 
arrived in Israel (then Palestine) shortly before the outbreak of World War II. She immediately 
found employment as a nanny with Judith's family. Batya had left her elderly parents and young 
brother in Poland. Her parents were later murdered by the Nazis. Batya was Judith's personal link 
to the Holocaust. The emotional connection between Judith and Batya is clearly evident. 



76 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



39. GOOD AND EVIL 

Epilogue 



45 w X 5(T 



1998 



The starting point for this wall hanging was the biblical statement in Genesis that when He 
created the world, God "saw that it was good." By contrast, the artist probing the Holocaust 
cannot help but see the prevalence of evil. The biblical statement appears seven times in this 
work, once for each of the seven days of creation. That phrase is interspersed with "and she saw 
that it was evil," which reflects the artist's view. These two contrasting visions of the world are 
set in this wall hanging against the background of a map of Europe during the Holocaust. Bodies 
are strewn all over the area and a multitude of glistening red beads symbolize the carnage. The 
number "6000000" — a reference to the number of Jews who perished in the Holocaust — appears 
around the border, as do four of the artist's Self-Portraits of a Holocaust Artist. 

This work combines stenciling, block printing, transfer printing, applique, embroidery, and 
beading. It raises a fundamental question: How can the biblical view be reconciled with the 
Holocaust? 




40. POWER 

Epilogue 



2V X 5V 



1999 



This work relates to Psalm 145:11: "Of your power they will tell . . ." Depicted are piles of 
artificial limbs, heaps of dentures and mounds of eyeglasses, all taken by the Nazis from their 
victims in the Holocaust. Power raises the question: Why did God not use His power to help 
the weak? 

The images were transfer printed from copies of Holocaust photographs onto patches of 
cotton fabric, then appliqued. The wording was stenciled with silver acrylic paint. 



41. PRAISE 

Epilogue 



2V x 51 w 



1999 



This work relates to Psalm 145:4: "Each generation will praise your deeds . . ." The imagery is 
from Kristallnacht ("Night of Glass") and Auschwitz. Depicted are destroyed synagogues, 
scorched Torahs and heaps of prayer shawls. Praise raises the question: While the Jews were 
devoutly praising Him, where was God? 

The images were transfer printed from copies of Holocaust photographs onto patches of 
cotton fabric, then appliqued. The wording was stenciled with silver acrylic paint. The 
appliqued striped fabric and the knotted cording dangling down from the two bottom corners 
are designed to suggest a prayer shawl. 



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42. VANISHED 

Epilogue 



2V x 21" 



1998 



This wall hanging incorporates a map on which are indicated the six Nazi death camps where 
millions died. A self-portrait of the artist appears at the center. In probing the Holocaust, the 
artist's personal identity is obscured because of her feeling of empathy with the victims. Only 
her eyes remain clear to see. 

The artist's self-portrait was transfer printed onto white cotton from a copy of her Self- 
Portrait of A Holocaust Artist #107 (acrylic on stretched canvas, 18" x 18", 1997). A 
semisheer black fabric helps obscure the artist's face. The borders of the map were 
embroidered with gray cotton floss and the names of the death camps were painted with white 
acrylic. Each of the death camps is punctuated by a clear square acrylic jewel. The 
background of the work is striped to evoke images of camp uniforms and wire fences from the 
Holocaust. The gray tonality of the work conveys a feeling of helplessness and despair. 



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43. HOLOCAUST ARTIST 

Epilogue 2V x 113" 1997 

In this wall hanging the artist probes, through a series of eleven self-portraits, her own 
preoccupation with the subject of the Holocaust. The self-portraits portray the artist in 
various settings which evoke the Holocaust. From left to right she is seen peering through the 
window of a boxcar; staring from behind a barbed wire fence; looking into a map of Europe 
on which the six death camps are indicated; wearing a crown marked "Jew"; studying a map 
of Europe; looking through the eyes of Anne Frank; imprisoned behind bars; looking 
through a yellow Star of David; and, finally, in the last three self-portraits, personally 
vanishing as she immerses herself in the Holocaust. 

The self-portraits incorporated in this wall hanging were transfer printed from eleven 
paintings belonging to the artist's series of Self-Portraits of a Holocaust Artist. The original 
self-portraits were done in acrylic on stretched canvas in 1997. The images as printed were 
appliqued onto the black background fabric of the wall hanging. The words "Holocaust 
Artist," stenciled in silver acrylic, frame the work. 



78 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



44. WITNESS 

Epilogue 18 ro x 26 w 1998 

The artist's eye is here superimposed upon that of Anne Frank in an expression of 
identification. Set against a map of Europe, the tracks leading Anne Frank on her journey to 
death pass over Anne's mouth, as if to silence her. But nothing, not even death, could silence 
the voice. Like her young subject, the artist, too, bears witness to the Holocaust. 

This work was created through a combination of transfer printing, applique, embroidery, and 
beading. The portrait was transfer printed on white cotton from a copy of the artist's painting 
Self-Portrait of a Holocaust Artist #102 (acrylic on stretched canvas, 18" x 18", 1997). 
The background of the wall hanging consists of a striped fabric which evokes images from the 
Holocaust: camp uniforms, wire fences and railroad tracks. The artist's identification with 
Anne Frank was heightened by the fact that the two were born the same year. 




45. ID 

Epilogue 2V X 26 w 1998 

In this work, a self-portrait of the artist appears on an identification card similar to those 
which Jews had to bear under the Nazis. The large red "J" on the left half of the document 
(standing for "Jude," or "Jew") and the added middle name "Sara" on the right identify the 
bearer of the document as a female Jew. Jewish males' ID cards also bore the letter "J" but had 
"Israel" added as a middle name. 

The ID card was transfer printed onto white cotton fabric from a reproduction of the artist's 
Self-Portrait of a Holocaust Artist #100 (mixed media on stretched canvas, 20" x 30", 
1997). The transfer printed image was appliqued onto a red background fabric, on which are 
also appliqued block-printed yellow Stars of David marked "Jude." The word "Jew" was 
stenciled in black acrylic around the border. Large glistening red beads, symbolizing 
bloodshed, are scattered over the red background. 




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1 



How I Create Them 

The Holocaust Wall Hangings 



by 



Judith Weinshall Liberman 



AN OVERVIEW 

The Holocaust Wall Hangings are works on fabric. In 
their conception, they fall mainly into two distinct 
groups. First, there are the Scenes of the Holocaust. 
These works refer more or less to the visible world; in the 
continuum between realistic and abstract, they are closer to 
the former than to the latter. In most of the Scenes, people 
take center stage. They are seen as either utterly isolated (as 
in Boxcar, Cart, Wire Fence) or as part of a totally 
depersonalized mass (as in Bunks, Fenced In, Hands Up). 
In either situation, the individual is portrayed as stripped of 
his/her humanity by the Holocaust. 

In the second group, the Maps of the Holocaust, the 
Holocaust is depicted in more abstract terms. Places and 
numbers, as well as other symbols of destruction, take the 
place of the individual in telling the story. Often in these 
works, as in the Scenes, people appear (like the soldier in 



Einsatzgruppen, bodies in Europe 1945), but this is 
done within the broader context of place and time. 

Like paintings, the Holocaust Wall Hangings are 
artworks designed to hang on a wall. Unlike most 
paintings which are done on canvas, the Holocaust Wall 
Hangings are loose-hanging rather than stretched on 
stretchers. There is a sleeve along the top of each wall 
hanging, through which a rod is inserted; when the wall 
hanging is displayed, the rod, which is longer than the 
wall hanging and protrudes on either end, rests on long 
nails hammered diagonally into the wall on each side. 
Although a more sophisticated method of hanging the 
Holocaust Wall Hangings — such as Velcro — would have 
been possible, I chose the rod method because of its 
simplicity and expressiveness. The idea of creating fabric 
works about the Holocaust was inspired in part by 



79 



80 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



memories of the banners of the Third Reich flying over 
Nazi-occupied Europe. The idea of a banner hanging off a 
rod was therefore integral to the conception of the 
Holocaust Wall Hangings. 

Stating that the Holocaust Wall Hangings are works 
on fabric may belie the wide variety of materials and 
techniques used in creating them. Among these 
techniques, some — such as painting and block printing, 
by means of which much of the imagery in the Wall 
Hangings was created — are normally associated with fine 
art. Stenciling is frequently utilized, as the Holocaust Wall 
Hangings are replete with lettering. Sewing, applique, 
embroidery and beading, which are traditionally 
associated with the world of crafts, play an important role 
in creating and enhancing the power of the works. And, 
finally, the possibility of transferring photographic and 
other images onto fabric has broadened the scope of 
expression far beyond what was possible through more 
traditional methods of fine art and craft. 

THE BACKGROUND FABRIC 

Unlike a tapestry, where the imagery is created by means 
of weaving threads of different colors and textures, a wall 
hanging is created on a base of ready-made fabric, which 
is normally uniform in coloration and texture. This fabric 
will here be called "the background fabric." The 
background fabric is store-bought and can be found in 
either the clothing fabric or in the decorating fabric 
section of a typical fabric store. 

An important consideration in choosing the 
background fabric for a wall hanging, aside from the usual 
considerations of durability, stability, color-fastness, 
crease-resistance, responsiveness to steaming etc., is that 
the fabric be substantial enough to hold the variety of 



materials which will be applied to it in the process of 
creating the work, such as applique, beading and 
embroidery. I often use heavy-weight cotton, such as black 
denim. Other favorite fabrics are sturdy cotton-polyester 
blends or even hefty woven polyester. I shy away from 
knits as background fabrics because they stretch. 

If the imagery planned to be created by means of 
either painting or block printing will be created directly 
on the background fabric — rather than on other pieces of 
fabric which will then be appliqued onto the background 
fabric — it is important to make sure that the background 
fabric will be absorbent and not be "stain repellent"; a 
fabric that has been treated for stain repellence will likely 
shed the paint used for the imagery sooner or later. The 
same holds true if stenciling or calligraphy is to be applied 
directly to the background fabric. In either case, if the 
imagery or lettering is planned to be created directly on 
the background fabric, testing a small swatch of the fabric 
to ensure that it is compatible with the application of 
paint will save many hours of labor and heartache. 

Although most of the Holocaust Wall Hangings were 
created on solid-colored background fabrics (normally 
solid black or solid red), in some of the works a patterned 
fabric is used. In such cases, the pattern is often geometric. 
For example, in Wannsee Plans a diagonally- striped 
fabric was used, in Jewish Servicemen in World War II 
a horizontally-striped fabric was utilized and in both 
Plan of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Voyage of the St. 
Louis a checked fabric was employed. More free-form 
patterns constitute the background of such works as 
Hands Up and Giftgas. In each case, the pattern of the 
background fabric was selected for its power to help 
convey the message of the projected wall hanging. 

Because patterned fabric of a specific design is 
normally not a staple commodity, when I find a patterned 



LIBERMAN: HOW I CREATE THEM 



81 



fabric that seems promising, I buy a large amount of it to 
ensure I have enough on hand when I need it. I must 
confess that sometimes I buy the fabric before I have a 
specific wall hanging in mind. Yet, somehow, the fabric 
eventually gets used up. Perhaps that is because the fabric 
itself can be the inspiration for a wall hanging. An artist 
must always be receptive to his/her materials. 

CREATING THE FRAMEWORK 

The framework of each of the Holocaust Wall Hangings is 
the background fabric shaped in a manner tailored to the 
specific work. After selecting the background fabric for a 
projected wall hanging, I have to make two important 
decisions: What will be the overall format of the wall 
hanging? And what will be its dimensions? 

Although the shape of a wall hanging can be freeform 
or an "odd" geometric one such as a triangle, a circle, etc., 
the Holocaust Wall Hangings have so far all been 
rectangular or square in format. A rectangular or square 
format serves the purpose of the Holocaust Wall Hangings 
series, which is to create "windows" through which the 
observer can see the Holocaust in its various 
manifestations. Each individual wall hanging reveals a 
different aspect of the Holocaust. There are Scenes, with 
their emphasis on the dehumanization of the individual in 
the Holocaust; there are Maps, with their revelation of 
what happened at a specific place — whether the place is 
the whole world, or the continent of Europe, or a group of 
European countries, or a city or a camp or even a single 
building — under Nazi domination. In all these cases, the 
rectangular or square format provides an excellent 
framework through which to view the Holocaust. 

Where the format is rectangular rather than square, the 
vast majority of the Holocaust Wall Hangings are horizontal. 



This format, again, seems uniquely tailored to the idea of 
revealing a panorama of Scenes and Maps of the Holocaust. 

As for the size of the Holocaust Wall Hangings, they 
are fairly large in scale compared to "normal" wall-hung 
works of art. The initial impetus for creating works on a 
large scale was the idea that to understand the Holocaust, 
the viewer must be immersed in its various 
manifestations. My desire was to exhibit the works in a 
vast space whose walls would be covered with the works, 
offering the viewer no place to rest his eyes, no escape — 
thus mirroring the Holocaust itself. Creating the works in 
fabric seemed particularly well suited for such a vision. 

When it comes to a specific work, however, the 
dimensions are determined by considerations deriving 
specifically from a desire to convey the idea of the work. 
For example, in Cart, which portrays a boy pulling a 
corpse-laden cart in the ghetto, the smallness and 
isolation of the boy could be well conveyed without 
creating a huge wall hanging; on the other hand, in Plan 
of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where the central idea is the 
creation by the Nazis of a vast and detailed death machine 
where millions perished, the idea itself dictated the large 
scale of the work. 

When cutting the fabric, it is important to square off the 
edges, so that the wall hanging will be of the desired 
rectangular or square shape. This is not always easy. 
Resorting to ripping the fabric so as to get a straight edge 
does not always yield the wished-for results, since the 
weaving itself may be off. Often, in the larger works, two 
lengths of fabric have to be seamed together to create the 
required length or width, and this compounds the problem. 
Patience is the name of the game here. Use whatever 
mechanical means you can harness. Measure and remeasure. 
And, above all, do not despair (or so I tell myself). 

Many of the Holocaust Wall Hangings have fabric 



82 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



"frames"; i.e., the borders are distinguishable from the 
body of the work by being made of a different fabric or 
bearing words or images which form a distinct edging. 
Where the "frame" will be an extension of the background 
fabric of the wall hanging, I allow — along each one of the 
four edges — an extra border-width of fabric plus an inch 
in addition to the width of the border itself for folding 
over and stitching. Where the "frame" will be created 
from a fabric different than the background fabric, the 
framing fabric itself must be a border width plus a couple 
of inches wider than the intended width of the "frame" to 
provide for folding over and two seam allowances. 

I usually finish the two side edges first, using a sewing 
machine. Most of the sewing in the Holocaust Wall 
Hangings is done by hand, because that allows for greater 
control. However, sewing the edges is different, simply 
because they are at the edges of the work. 

Although I mark and sometimes even lightly baste the 
top and bottom "frame" edges to fold them over, I do not 
stitch them down until the very end. Reason? I may wish 
to applique, embroider, or bead the "frame" as the work 
progresses, and if the folded edge were stitched down, I 
would risk creating an obstruction to the hanging rod. I 
leave the bottom edge "open," too, to ensure that if a rod 
has to be inserted to weigh down the fabric when the work 
is on exhibition, the path is clear. 

THE LAYOUT 

I have often been asked whether I sketch out the 
Holocaust Wall Hangings before creating them. I usually 
do a small thumbnail sketch for each wall hanging, 
sometimes a bunch of different thumbnail sketches for a 
given work, and scribble some notes (legible only by me) 
about the central idea, the imagery to be used to convey 



that idea, etc. I use these sketches and notes as a way of 
clarifying to myself what I want to say in a given work and 
how I want to say it. But I never sketch out the work the 
way it will be. 

The only exception is in the Maps, where the map 
outline itself is drawn to scale ahead of time. I consider it 
important to be accurate in rendering a map. The way I 
see it, a map conveys information about a specific place at 
a specific time. Within the context of the Holocaust Wall 
Hangings, a map can be of the whole world or of a 
continent or of specific countries or of a city or of a camp 
or even of a building (as is the layout of the Annex in 
Anne Frank's Hiding Place). In the case of the 
continents and various countries, I use a standard atlas 
and enlarge the desired map many-fold using techniques 
traditionally used by artists for enlarging. Similar 
techniques are used in maps of cities, camps or buildings. 
The enlarged map is usually rendered in pencil on strong 
paper (often in sections taped together) which is laid on 
top of the background fabric on the floor. I pin the map 
sketch to the fabric to prevent shifting. To do the tracing, 
I use a dressmaker's tracing paper — usually white, as the 
fabrics are dark — and bear down on the outline with 
either a ball-point pen or a tracing wheel. When I remove 
the sketch, the white outline of the map is visible on the 
fabric. My next step is usually to embroider the map, 
using cotton embroidery floss of suitable color in a 
modified chain stitch. 

From here on, the process of creating the Maps is 
similar to that of creating any of the other wall hangings. 
It is a process of discovery. I spread the wall hanging on 
the floor in front of me. I interact with it. I create some 
images — usually on separate pieces of fabric to be 
appliqued — place them here and there on the fabric and 
see the effect. Do the images express what I want to say? 



LIBERMAN: HOW I CREATE THEM 



83 



Are the colors right, or should I change the hue, the 
saturation, the value? Should I add larger or smaller 
images? And where shall I place them and in what 
direction? How close together or far apart should they be? 
And does their texture support the image? Is it too similar 
to that of the background fabric? 

These and many other questions run through my mind 
in the process of creating a wall hanging. Since the 
Holocaust Wall Hangings are large, I try to hold them 
together artistically through the harmony of repeated 
images which convey the underlying idea of the work; side 
by side with this harmony, and to avoid monotony, I try to 
create a variety of scale, of color, of texture, of direction, etc. 
I pay particular attention to movement through the 
imagery, allowing the eye to travel all over the work to grasp 
its meaning. There is no point in creating a vast work if the 
observer's eye will be stuck in one spot, is there? 

In summary, the problems confronting me in creating 
the Holocaust Wall Hangings are no different from those 
I faced during the many years when my primary means of 
expression was painting: How do I create a work that 
expresses what I want to say and keeps the viewer's 
attention long enough to grasp it? This, I dare say, is the 
challenge confronting all artists, past, present, and future. 

IMAGERY 

The imagery for any given wall hanging is thought out 
generally in advance, during the sketching-and-scribbling 
stage. It is at this early stage that I try to decide upon 
imagery that will symbolize the underlying idea of the 
projected wall hanging. Often, especially in the Maps, I 
use a single image, repeated with variations throughout 
the work. The repetition underscores the fact that the 
atrocities that happened in the Holocaust happened over 



and over again. 

Sometimes a single image imposes itself upon me 
right away. Thus, for Road to Auschwitz, the image that 
came immediately to mind was that of a boxcar. The 
people who were shipped to Auschwitz were crammed 
into boxcars for the long, arduous and often fatal journey; 
it therefore seemed fitting to have a boxcar convey the 
idea underlying the work. The image of the lion in Two 
Thousand Years also seemed obvious: the proud Lion of 
Judah, a symbol of the Jewish People since biblical times, 
standing for the establishment of Jewish communities 
throughout Europe; the fallen lion conveying the 
destruction of these communities, some of them two 
thousand years old. 

At other times, the image which would be the main 
bearer of the message in a particular wall hanging is harder 
to pin down. At such times, a variety of possible images — 
rather than the absence of any — presents itself to me. 
Making a choice requires me to imagine the work using this 
image or that. Such was the case in Fate of the Gypsies, a 
wall hanging which, as its title suggests, deals with the fate 
of the Gypsies in the Holocaust. In preparation for this 
work, I had gone to the library and studied, in addition to 
facts and figures about Gypsies in the Holocaust, various 
books about the Gypsies generally, their origins, history, 
lifestyle, etc. In trying to come up with an appropriate 
symbolic image, the Gypsies' traditional nomadic existence 
captured my imagination, and I considered having a horse- 
and-carriage symbolize the Gypsies in the Holocaust. I also 
considered cards (as in Tarot), a storefront bearing the word 
"fortuneteller," a large family, a musical instrument . . . 
Suddenly, it hit me: a hand, a human hand with its palm 
facing the viewer. The hand would show the palm lines 
fortune-tellers study to predict a person's future. I 
wondered: Did the Gypsies predict their own fate in the 



84 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



Holocaust? On each hand, I decided, would be revealed the 
number of Gypsy casualties in a particular part of Europe. 
The symbol of the hand would be a reminder that, hidden 
beneath the large numbers, were individual victims, men, 
women and children. 

Once I decide upon the imagery, I have to determine 
what means I will use to create it. The choices are rich. First 
and foremost, since the Holocaust Wall Hangings are works 
on fabric, the possibility of creating the images themselves 
from "unadulterated" pieces of fabric immediately suggests 
itself. The images of the figures in such works as Hands Up 
and Fenced In were largely created by means of small 
pieces of fabric especially cut and appliqued to suggest 
clothing. The images of the crematoria in Monuments 
were created from large pieces of black fabric cut to shape 
and appliqued onto the striped background fabric. Creating 
the images of triangles in Insignia, Triangles and Race 
Defiler was naturally accomplished by appliqueing 
triangularly- shaped pieces of fabric onto the background 
fabric. 

Where pieces of fabric are used for applique, I usually 
back them with iron-on interfacing to make them more 
substantial and stable. An exception is a case such as the 
huts cut from formed fabric in Plan of Auschwitz- 
Birkenau; the heat required to bond them to the iron-on 
interfacing would damage them. I like to edge each piece to 
be appliqued with a satin stitch so as to avoid frayed edges 
and give the piece a finished look. These techniques of 
backing and edging fabrics are also used where the pieces 
are appliqued after being painted on, printed, or used as a 
base for image transfer, as discussed below. 

Lengths of ribbon are another way of using 
"unadulterated" fabric to create images in the Holocaust 
Wall Hangings. The layout of the city of Amsterdam in 
Anne Frank's Amsterdam is entirely made of appliqued 



silver ribbon. Ribbon is also used to create much of the 
layout of the building and cage-like structure in Anne 
Frank's Hiding Place. In works such as Road to 
Auschwitz, appliqued ribbon is used in creating an image 
of railroad tracks around the border. 

Another method of creating images for the Holocaust 
Wall Hangings is painting. The painting can be done 
directly on the background fabric or on a separate piece of 
fabric, which would then be appliqued onto the 
background fabric. In each case, it is important to test the 
fabric to make sure the paint will adhere to it without 
flaking off. Natural fibers such as cotton, burlap, and linen 
are most compatible with paint. The hands in Hands Up 
were painted on small pieces of fabric, which were then 
appliqued onto the background fabric. Anne Frank's 
image in Anne Frank'c Hiding Place was also painted. 
The paints I use in the Holocaust Wall Hangings — 
whether for painting, block printing, or stenciling and 
calligraphy — are artists' acrylics. Artists' acrylics do not 
damage the fabric nor render it stiff, and have a track 
record for stability and durability. 

Most often the images that appear in the Holocaust 
Wall Hangings are created by means of block printing 
rather than painting. Block printing has an obvious 
advantage over painting in the context of these works. 
Although carving a block for printing is labor-intensive, 
once the block is carved its image can be printed over and 
over again, both in the same wall hanging and in other 
works. The unpredictability of the exact appearance of a 
given print — which is due to various factors including 
humidity and pressure — makes it possible to achieve the 
variety I crave in the repeated imagery of many of the 
Holocaust Wall Hangings. 

The blocks and sheets I use for block printing are made 
of linoleum rather than wood. Linoleum has several 



LIBERMAN: HOW I CREATE THEM 



85 



advantages over wood as a material for block printing in the 
Holocaust Wall Hangings. For one thing, linoleum is softer 
and easier to cut. It does not have a grain. It is less costly 
than wood. But its main advantage for me is that linoleum 
blocks can be purchased in a large variety of pre-cut sizes, 
and do not have to be especially sawed. I keep a drawer full 
of linoleum blocks and linoleum sheets of various sizes on 
hand so I can start creating images for a wall hanging at a 
moment's notice. For carving, I use an old set of Japanese 
carving tools that have surgical steel blades. 

In preparing for block printing, it is crucial to 
remember to carve into the block a mirror image of the 
desired final image, because the process of printing 
naturally reverses the image as carved. This is especially 
important where the image includes letters or numbers. It 
is also advisable to preplan the color of the fabric on which 
the image will be printed and the color of the paint that 
will be used in printing, because that will determine what 
portions of the block should be carved out (so as to accept 
no paint) and what parts should not. 

Image transfer is a relatively new and exciting method 
of creating fabric images for the Holocaust Wall Hangings. 
Image transfer makes it possible to transfer images 
directly from paper onto fabric. The first step in the 
process of image transfer is to copy the desired image in 
reverse (mirror image) onto paper using either a color 
copier or an ordinary copying machine. (An image printed 
on your office or home printer would probably not be 
suitable, as the printing ink will tend to bleed.) You cover 
the paper image with a layer of a creamy liquid called 
"transfer medium" and place the paper face down on a 
piece of prewashed light-colored cotton fabric, smoothing 
the paper and pressing gently all over to ensure adhesion. 
You wait twenty-four hours and then proceed to wet the 
back of the paper and rub it off in order to expose the 



image. You may have to rub the paper off repeatedly, as it 
stubbornly clings to the image and obscures it. Eventually 
a clear image will emerge on your fabric. 

The image-transfer technique allows for the transfer 
onto fabric of images of varied etiology. What I 
particularly like about the technique in the context of the 
Holocaust Wall Hangings is that it allows for the use of 
photographic and art-based images. I have used strictly 
photographic images in Belongings, and a combination 
of photographic and art-derived images in such works as 
Boarding, Showers, and Memorabilia. In the latter 
three works, the art images were derived from my own 
paintings and drawings. Image transfer thus allows me to 
integrate my own nonfabric artworks into the Holocaust 
Wall Hangings. 

Image transfer is sometimes accomplished by means 
of copying an image onto a special paper, placing the paper 
face down on a prewashed piece of cotton fabric and 
ironing the back of the paper with a hot, dry iron. 
Although this technique of image transfer is much less 
time consuming, I prefer the clarity and finished look of 
the more arduous technique described above. 

STENCILING 

While I have not used stencils to create the imagery in the 
Holocaust Wall Hangings, stenciling has been used 
extensively in these works to render the letters, numbers, and 
some symbols (e.g., a pointing hand to indicate direction in 
The Final Solution). The title of a specific work — as in 
Anne Frank's Amsterdam — is sometimes incorporated 
into the wall hanging, usually in the border of the work. In 
Remembrance, a dedication of the Holocaust Wall Hangings 
to my husband, Robert's, memory is spelled out all around 
the border, while the body of the work itself incorporates the 



86 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



title of the series, etc. The names of cities, ghettos and camps, 
the dates of the establishment of Jewish communities in 
various parts of Europe, the number of Jews planned for 
extermination by the Wannsee conference, the number of 
Jews and Gypsies who perished in the Holocaust, all appear 
in one wall hanging or another, and stenciling is the 
technique normally used for that purpose. 

Letter stencils (which normally also include 
numbers) are readily available in a well-stocked art supply 
store. The stencils usually consist of heavyweight paper 
sheets, with perforations in the shape of letters and 
numbers . There is an array of letter styles (fonts) to 
choose from, as well as letter sizes. I usually get a package 
that has a variety of letter sizes of the desired letter style, 
so I will have them on hand when the need arises. For the 
Holocaust Wall Hangings I have used Old English style 
lettering, which looks Germanic, as well as Roman and 
sans serif lettering. Stencils may have to be replaced on 
occasion, as the edges of the letters tend to fill with paint 
after they have been used a few times. Heavy plastic 
stencil sheets, from which the paint could be scraped off, 
would be preferable, but are a rarity. 

The most important thing to do once you have 
determined the style and size of lettering you want to use 
is to ensure proper spacing between letters (or numbers) 
and between words. This I do first on paper, using a sturdy 
tracing paper. I draw a long, straight horizontal line on a 
sheet of paper. The line will mark the bottom of most of 
the letters. Using the stencil and a sharp pencil, I proceed 
to trace the first letter, marking the desired spacing 
between it and the next letter by drawing a light vertical 
line where the next letter will begin. After I draw the next 
letter, with its left edge touching the vertical line, I study 
the spacing and determine whether I like it or not. Should 
the new letter be moved closer to the previous one or 



farther away? The important considerations here are 
mostly aesthetic, although, of course, projecting the total 
length of the wording may require me to change the 
spacing or even the size of lettering to be stenciled. 
Similar considerations apply to spacing between words. 
The obvious advantage of using a pencil at this stage is 
that the lettering can be easily erased. I have not found the 
perforated holes in stencil sheets, designed to be a guide to 
proper spacing, particularly useful. Studying the actual 
spacing at each step is my chosen way. 

Once the lettering has all been drawn on paper, it has 
to be traced onto the fabric. That fabric may be part of the 
background or "frame" fabric, or it may be an extraneous 
length of fabric to be appliqued to the wall hanging at a 
later stage. In either case, it is important to start by taping 
or basting a long, straight line on the fabric, which will 
correspond to the long, straight horizontal line initially 
drawn on the paper to mark the bottom of the lettering. 
(Needless to say, the line on the fabric must take into 
account proper distance from the edge, adequate seam 
allowance etc.). Before pinning the paper to the fabric, I 
determine the center of the lettering and the center of the 
fabric, and mark each. I then match up the two centers 
and make sure that the long horizontal line on the paper 
matches up with the line on the fabric. After the paper is 
pinned in place, I use a dressmaker's white tracing paper 
and a ballpoint pen or sharp pencil to trace the letters. The 
tracing is more accurately done if the original stencil form 
is used, placed appropriately over each letter and allowing 
for the letter to be properly redrawn. 

The next step is to apply paint to the letters within the 
traced outlines. For that purpose, a suitable paint color 
must be chosen. To make the wording more easily legible, 
I normally select a color that will contrast with the 
background, such as white or silver on a dark fabric, and 



LIBERMAN: HOW I CREATE THEM 



87 



black on a lighter-colored fabric. The paints used are 
artists' acrylics, applied with a special stiff stenciling 
brush. The paint has to be applied sparingly, with a 
stippling motion; too much paint will cause the paint to 
ooze out beyond the edges of the letter. Usually, applying 
the lighter colored paints, such as white or silver, to a dark 
fabric requires a second application of paint. To ensure 
that the lettering is completely dry before applying a new 
coat of paint, I first finish all the lettering and then go 
back and retrace my steps. 

I have rarely had occasion to use calligraphy, i.e., free- 
hand lettering, in the Holocaust Wall Hangings. At times a 
particular shape, such as one used in punctuation, was not 
readily available. On such occasions, I drew the required 
shape on a piece of paper and traced it onto the fabric in a 
manner similar to that described above. Experimenting 
directly on the background fabric could be hazardous. 

EXPRESSIVE / DECORATIVE ELEMENTS 

Beading can be viewed as an important decorative element 
used in the Holocaust Wall Hangings. In many of the 
works, beads scattered throughout the work or 
concentrated in a specific area provide a sparkle which 
contrasts with the flat surrounding fabric and imagery and 
give the work added texture and dimensionality. Thus, the 
faceted acrylic jewel marking the camp in Road to 
Auschwitz and those punctuating the tracks in Anne 
Frank's Journey, as well as the round beads scattered 
throughout such works as Two Thousand Years and 
even the elongated tubular beads which cover Six 
Million, can be regarded as decorative. 

While the beading in the Holocaust Wall Hangings is 
decorative, an important reason for my use of beads in 
various works has been their expressive power. The 



faceted red jewel marking Auschwitz in Road to 
Auschwitz symbolizes blood and fire; the same goes for 
the faceted jewels along the tracks in Anne Frank's 
Journey, leading Anne Frank toward her death. The 
round red beads scattered throughout many of the Wall 
Hangings, such as Two Thousand Years and Camps and 
Fate of the Gypsies, symbolize drops of blood. And the 
textured elongated tubular beads which cover Six 
Million represent trees which have been chopped down, 
a symbol for death. 

All the beads used in the Holocaust Wall Hangings 
are sewn rather than glued on. I do not trust glue to last as 
long as thread, and have therefore avoided its use in any 
way in these works. By definition, a bead has two holes. 
The thread, which emerges from the base fabric, goes in 
one hole of the bead and out the other, then reenters the 
base fabric and is knotted in the back. I usually sew each 
bead on separately to prevent a mishap to one bead from 
affecting any of the others. Every bead is sewn two or three 
times to ensure that it is firmly attached. 

Embroidery is used in many of the Maps, usually in a 
modified chain stitch, to mark the borders between 
different countries. I use cotton embroidery floss, applied 
with an embroidery needle. Sometimes tiny beads are 
interspersed between the embroidery stitches to add 
sparkle and definition. While the embroidery has its 
decorative aspect, it serves an expressive purpose in the 
context of the Holocaust Wall Hangings. 

The color used in the Holocaust Wall Hangings can 
also be regarded as decorative. The palette employed in 
these works is mostly black, gray, and red. The 
juxtaposition of a saturated red against black and gray is 
visually exciting. In a handful of works, such as Yellow 
Star, Insignia, Triangles, and Race Defiler, bright 
colors are used. 



88 



HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 



However, here again, the expressiveness of the color 
plays a vital role in my work. Yellows are used in Yellow 
Star because the work deals with the symbols which Jews 
were forced to wear under Nazi rule. In such works as 
Insignia, Triangles, and Race Defiler, bright colors 
are used to show the colors of insignia dictated by the 
Nazis for camp inmates. Finally, in the vast majority of the 
Wall Hangings, the limited palette of red, gray, and black 
expresses the Holocaust: Red symbolizes blood and fire; 
gray, suffering and despair; black, death. 

EXHIBITING THE WORKS 

During an exhibition of the Holocaust Wall Hangings, I 
noticed that a teenager who had come to the museum to view 
the show with his high school class was studying the works 
intently. I was pleased to see his great interest and asked if he 
had any questions. The young man hesitated a moment, then 
blurted out: "How come you don't sign them?" 

I turned over the bottom right corner of one of the 
works to show my visitor that the works are "signed." He 
seemed relieved, even though the artist's name appeared 
only on the back. But then his curiosity took over again. 
Why, he wanted to know, don't I sign the works on the 
front, the way artists usually do with their work? 

The young man's query made me realize that I had 
never even considered signing my name on the front of 
any of the Holocaust Wall Hangings. I had signed the 
front of my paintings for years, but, somehow, the 
Holocaust Wall Hangings seemed different. On further 
reflection I realized that once I had created a wall hanging, 
it felt to me like a sacred object. I could not explain to 
myself why that was so. (Was it because each one was a 
memorial to the death of millions?) Yet, although I could 



not figure out why I had this feeling of awe, I was certain 
of one thing: Signing a Holocaust Wall Hanging on its 
face would feel sacrilegious. I simply could not do it. 

So I "sign" each wall hanging on the back. For that 
purpose, I use a linoleum block which I carved (in mirror 
image) with my name, including my maiden name, 
"Judith Weinshall Liberman." I carved this block back in 

1988, when I first started creating the Holocaust Wall 
Hangings. When I complete a wall hanging, I use the 
block to print my name near the corner of the bottom 
hem, using artists' white acrylic paint. To make sure the 
paint does not seep through to the front, I temporarily 
insert, before printing, a small piece of cardboard into the 
hem where the print is projected. Each year I carve (in 
mirror image) a new linoleum block with the year (1988, 

1989, etc.) and print that either under or next to my name. 
And, voila, the wall hanging is "signed." 

Many visitors to exhibitions of the Holocaust Wall 
Hangings have commented on the size of the works and 
asked how I store them. The Holocaust Wall Hangings 
are, on average, so much larger than "normal" works of art 
that showing all of them simultaneously, even at a 
museum, has proven impossible so far. The most I have 
shown at the same time has been a group of thirty-seven 
works, and that was in a fairly large museum where both 
floors were dedicated to the works. But while exhibiting 
the Holocaust Wall Hangings requires a large amount of 
space — i.e., long, unbroken walls and tall ceilings — 
storing them does not. Because they are works on fabric, 
they can be easily folded and stacked one on top of the 
other in a fairly small space. 

When preparing for an exhibition, I press each wall 
hanging carefully, then refold it and pack the works in 
suitcases, making sure that the heavier works are at the 



LIBERMAN: HOW I CREATE THEM 



89 



bottom. (Rolling them for shipment does not seem practical 
because of their size). When the works are hung at the 
exhibition, I sometimes have to steam out creases, which I 
do rather easily with a small handheld electric steamer. 

When on exhibition, each wall hanging is suspended 
from a rod inserted through a sleeve at the top. The rod 
protrudes a few inches on either end and rests on long, 
strong nails hammered diagonally into the wall. Brackets 
through which the rod can be inserted are a costlier but 
neater method of hanging, and allow the works to hang 
away from the wall. The rods are made of wood and I ask 
each museum to prepare them from a list of lengths I 
provide and to paint them with an acrylic paint to match 
the walls. Unfinished wood could damage the works, and 
shipping rods back and forth is usually costlier than 
acquiring and preparing them. A good uniform diameter 



for the rods is 1 3/8 inches, which makes for a rod strong 
enough to hold even some of the heavier works without 
bowing. I sew plastic rings along the top at the back of 
each wall hanging — one at each end and one at the 
center — to carry the weight when needed. Even when the 
rings will not be required for suspension, they are useful 
in identifying the top of a folded wall hanging. 

A wall label, whose text I prepare, accompanies each 
wall hanging while on exhibition. In addition to the 
information usually appearing on museum and gallery 
labels — i.e., the artist's name, the title, the medium and 
the year — the labels that accompany the Holocaust Wall 
Hangings also discuss the historical background and other 
aspects of the work. Art speaks for itself, but insight into 
the artist's way of thinking, coming straight out of the 
artist's mouth, seems to be deeply appreciated. 




JUDITH WEINSHALL LI V\ 

Born in Haifa, Israel (then Palestine, ishall 

Liberman was ten years old when World War II broke out. 
Although her family had immigrated to Israel from Europe 
in the early twenties - long before Hitler - and she therefore 
had no immediate family left in Europe, Judith was aware, 
even as a teenager, of what was going on during the 
Holocaust and knew many who lost loved ones at the 
hands of the Nazis. In 1947, after the end of World War II, 
having completed high school, Judith came to the United 
States to pursue her education. She earned four American 
university degrees in social studies and law, including a 
J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School and an 
LL.M. from the University of Michigan Law School. She 
lectured and wrote about law, but soon realized that her 
main interest was in art. After settling in the Boston area 
in the mid-fifties, she studied art at the School of the 
Museum of Fine Arts, at Massachusetts College of Art, at 
the DeCordova Museum School and at the Art Institute of 
Boston. She completed all course work for the M.F.A. 
degree at Boston University School for the Arts and 
became certified as an art teacher. She won an award as 
an author-illustrator for her book "THE BIRD'S LAST 
SONG" (Addison- Wesley, 1976). Since the early sixties, 
Judith Weinshall Liberman has created numerous series of 
artworks focusing on the human condition. In 1987, after her 
husband's death, she began expressing her feelings about the 
Holocaust through her art, first in the form of paintings and then 
in a series of multi-media wall hangings. Her art has been 
exhibited in museums and other public institutions in the United 
States and in Israel. Her work is represented in numerous 
public collections, including the collections of the Yad Vashem 
Museum in Jerusalem, the Haifa Museum of Modern Art in 
Haifa, the Ghetto Fighters' House Museum in Kibbutz 
Lochemai Hagetaot, Israel, the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln. 
Massachusetts, The Jackson Homestead Museum in Newton, 
Massachusetts, the Museum of Our National Heritage in 
Lexington, Massachusetts, The William Benton Museum of Art 
in Storrs, Connecticut, the Florida Holocaust Museum in 
St. Petersburg, Florida, and The Temple Museum of Religious 
Art, The Temple Tifereth Israel, in Cleveland. Ohio. 

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS 

OF 

THE HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS 

1999 Florida Holocaust Museum, St. Petersburg. Florida 

1999 Long Island Museum, Stony Brook, New York 

1997 Hatikvah Center, Springfield, Massachusetts 

1995 University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut 

1994 DeCordova Museum. Lincoln, Massachusetts 

1992 Yad Vashem Museum, Jerusalem, Israel 

1992 Mishkan L'Omanut Art Museum, Eir Harod. Israel 

1990 Jewish Community Center. Newton, Massachusetts 




r 



CURATORS' STATEMENTS 



"It is rare that work based on the Holocaust achieves such a high level as art 
while simultaneously conveying the complexity and the horror of this 
event." 

Meri Adelman, Starr Gallery, Jewish Community Center 

Newton, Massachusetts 

"... this exhibit is important on an artistic level as well as on a human level." 
Galia Bar Or, Mishkan L'Omanut Art Museum 
Ein Harod, Israel 

"... this approach to the subject of the Holocaust (the materials, the 
techniques, the colors, the images, the compositions) has proven to be 
not only unique but also a powerful way of expressing the Holocaust." 

Irit Salmon, Yad Vashem Museum 

Jerusalem, Israel 

"What I find so powerful about the wall hangings is that they combine 
sobering information about the Holocaust with art works of great beauty." 

Rachel Lafo, DeCordova Museum 

Lincoln, Massachusetts 

"Her fabric wall hangings map out a visual territory of unforgettable facts 
and events in world history." 

Salvatore Scalora, University of Connecticut 

Storrs, Connecticut 

"Your Holocaust Wall Hangings reached everyone, young and old, 
knowledgeable or neophyte, survivors and all the rest of us, too." 

Jane Trigere, Hatikvah Holocaust Center 

Springfield, Massachusetts 

"By now you know how deeply moving and hauntingly beautiful I think 
your wall hangings are and how much I respect your artistic abilities and 
integrity. And everyone who came into contact with them - other staff, our 
board members, our school groups, and our regular visitors - all agreed." 

William S. Ayres, The Long Island Museum 

Stony Brook, Long Island, New York 

"Judith Liberman's Holocaust Wall Hangings make accessible the 
inconceivable, make soft the most harsh, and most real the unimaginable." 

Stephen M. Goldman, Florida Holocaust Museum 

St. Petersburg, Florida 

"Judith Liberman's art, especially her Holocaust Wall Hangings series, is 
not only a memorable artistic representation of the Holocaust, but also an 
important contribution to aesthetics and pedagogy." 

Stephen C. Feinstein, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies 
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 




REVIEWERS' COMMENTS 



"Despite the soft, homey material, namely, the fabric of the wall hangings, 
which would seem to be in sharp contrast to the frightening and cruel subject 
of the Holocaust - and perhaps because of this contrast - the wall hangings 
achieve their aim with tremendous power." 

N. Hagrizi, Al Hamishmar, Israel 

July 27, 1992 

"... Judith Liberman's fabric collages use media traditionally categorized as 
'feminine' to describe aspects of one of history's most horrifying episodes." 

Christine Temin, The Boston Globe 

December 14, 1994 

"The Holocaust Wall Hangings have a dreadful beauty. In the awful night 
of the Holocaust, only the act of witnessing and speaking the truth can raise 
a flicker of light." 

Cate McQuaid, The Boston Phoenix 

January 6, 1995 

"The colors are woven, printed, beaded to create a unified image of the 
Holocaust in all its savagery - an image, ironically, presented through the 
delicacy and softness of these exquisite wall hangings." 

Terese Karmel, The Chronicle, Willimantic, Connecticut 

October 19, 1995 

"Abstraction and repetition are applied to the symbolism of repression, 
removing it from the realm of personal suffering and elevating it to the level 
of universal tragedy. . . Ms. Liberman's most effective tool is the map, which 
not only provides pictorial structure but, as a politically determined construct, 
also emphasizes the extent of Hitler's territorial ambitions." 

Helen A. Harrison, The New York Times, Long Island, New York 

February 28, 1999 

"(The) wall hangings... take the details of the Nazi depravity and cast them 
into powerful statements." 

Annabelle Kerins, Newsday, Long Island, New York 

April 9, 1999 

"Both polarities of the literal and the conceptual are present in the work of 
Judith Liberman. . . The artist uses wall hangings, a form both feminine and 
public, to memorialize the victims and provide a vehicle for wider meditations. . ." 

Nancy Weston, Absence/Presence, University of Minnesota 

1999 

"With powerful, purposefully repetitive images as these, no one shall forget the 
Holocaust nor the moving art of Judith Weinshall Liberman." 

Mary Anne Marger, St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, Florida 

October 22, 1999